Sunday, May 27, 2018
Education

Pepin Academies' new Riverview facility extends school's mission

RIVERVIEW — Pepin Academies can point to a number of successful developments since it first opened in 1999, the latest coming with the recent expansion of its Riverview campus.

Tom Pepin, longtime supporter and namesake of the learning disabilities school, joined other dignitaries last month to celebrate a larger, customized campus at 9304 Camden Field Parkway.

In 2013, the school extended the reach of its original Tampa campus with added locations in Pasco County and Riverview. But the school quickly outgrew the new temporary Riverview facilities on Lake St. Charles Boulevard.

So Pepin Academies executive director Craig Butz spearheaded the search for property in the Riverview area.

He found the spot for a permanent campus on Camden Field west of U.S. 301 near the Progress Insurance Service Center and redesigned the property to house high school students from the Lake St. Charles location as additional construction continued.

The elementary and middle school students remained at the temporary campus, but when the facility was completed at the end of 2016, the students were reunited and now this 40,000 square foot facility houses 270 students.

"It's great having everybody under one roof," Butz said. "Now we can serve more students and really have a first class facility for them."

With the opening of the new campus, Pepin Academies is now able to serve nearly 1,000 Hillsborough and Pasco County students in third to 12th grades.

When the school first opened in 1999, it aimed to serve high school students with a variety of learning disabilities.

Since then, it has grown to include 3rd through 12th grades as well as a transitional program for 18- to 22-year-old students seeking additional job and life skills training before entering the work force.

Butz speaks with pride as he describes the success of the program and how it empowers students with learning disabilities.

"Our kids do well here," Butz said. "Eighty percent of our students graduate with a standard high school diploma while others graduate with a special diploma after passing an Access Points curriculum. They go on to attend HCC, St. Leo, USF, and we feel they are well prepared for that."

Butz also praises his faculty and emphasizes that these teachers are at Pepin because they choose to be. It helps that the teachers receive support from a full team of professionals such as speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, mental health counselors and social workers.

The classes are small with 12 to 14 students in a class and paraprofessionals assist the teachers at the elementary level.

"It's not an easy job but our teachers love it and are committed to it," Butz said. "They do what they can to make sure the students are successful.

"The key to our success is trying to meet the needs of each individual student, focusing on their strengths and weaknesses."

This kind of individualized attention is the reason Andrea Kennedy, the school's Assessment Coordinator, thought Pepin was the perfect place for her daughter, Kayla, who suffered from a speech and language disability.

Kennedy found that the oversized classroom at the public school made it difficult for her daughter to thrive without any additional help.

She learned about Pepin through Kayla's speech teacher and enrolled her in the Riverview facility when it opened in 2013. She is now in the 10th grade and her mother is thrilled with her progress.

"She has been so successful here, happy and comfortable," Kennedy said. "I hate to think what would have happened to her if she had stayed in her other school.

"I think her self-esteem and her self-confidence would have diminished whereas now, it has flourished."

Contact Kathy Straub at [email protected]

Comments
Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

Sparks fly among Hillsborough School Board members as private messages are leaked

TAMPA — Somebody got into Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively’s Facebook account, copied her messages and gave them to a newspaper publisher who is a friend of her rivals on the board.The posts discussed politics and power struggl...
Published: 05/25/18
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Published: 05/24/18
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

Company in charge of Hillsborough substitute teachers weighs in on problem cases

TAMPA — The company hired by the Hillsborough County School District to fill more than 170,000 substitute teaching shifts every year is defending its record, saying it works to get to the bottom of allegations against employees, treat them fairly and...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18