Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Students upset with schedule changes at Land O'Lakes High School

LAND O'LAKES — Jack Nelson had plans for his seventh-period lunch next fall.

A rising Land O'Lakes High School senior, Nelson expected to use the 50 minutes to get his homework done, freeing time to play sports and get a second part-time job after school lets out each afternoon.

But come Aug. 14, seventh period will be no more at Land O'Lakes High, though school will let out at the same time. The opportunity, which had let seniors leave school an hour before the final bell each day, fell victim to the school's two-year renovation project, which will close as many as a quarter of the buildings on campus at any given time.

Lunch will be reduced to 30 minutes during the fifth of sixth class periods.

Nelson and his classmates are not taking it well.

"It's something that changes the entire school day," he said. "There really are no upsides."

More than 500 people have signed a petition urging the return to the old schedule. Some students are preparing to complain to the School Board when it meets May 16.

Teachers also have raised concerns that they were not consulted regarding the revision, which will change the way they teach and plan. Most are uncomfortable speaking out, though, said United School Employees of Pasco president Kenny Blankenship, who intends to return to a Land O'Lakes High classroom in the fall.

Blankenship said he once taught with a similar schedule, where the fifth period was broken into three sections, one of which was a 30-minute lunch.

"It's a nightmare," he said.

Principal Ric Mellin explained that he wants to limit the movement of students on campus during the construction, so they stay out of harm's way. And because the school will be partially blocked off, Mellin added, it won't have the usual open space for students to go study outside of class.

"A popular destination is the media center, but we have to use the media center for classes" during construction, he said. "I don't have a place to put these kids other than the lunchroom."

Plus, the school is losing some non-instructional staffers who monitor lunch periods.

Mellin said eliminating seventh period and having a shorter lunch in the middle of the day works best for the school. He said he has been reviewing all of the variables for several months, and this represents the best option.

"We knew during the renovations of this school there were going to be some inconveniences, and we were going to have to do business a little differently," he said. "But our families in this community were well aware of it."

When the School Board discussed closing the campus for a year of work, in fact, parents overwhelmingly objected to the idea.

As details of some of the changes have come out, parents have not complained to the school. But not all students are yet convinced.

They've raised concerns about having a fifth-period course in which lunch separates two halves, and questioned how they might have continuity during a complicated lesson or a test. At the same time, they noted that with 30 minutes there would barely be enough time to get through the cafeteria line and eat, much less meet with teachers for questions or counseling.

Students take six courses a day.

"There truly isn't a good enough reason for the administration team to take away seventh period and chunk fifth period into three 30 minute lunches. We can only guess that their hope is to stop people from skipping lunch as much or actually going to class on time," rising senior Darian Sisson said via email. "We already know that more than a few students have said that if they get 5B lunch they will just go home."

Mellin said the school had very few students leave during seventh-period lunch this year. But he added that he empathized with the students' complaint.

"I don't think there's a person you could talk to, me included , who wouldn't want a longer break during their studies," he said. "But a 30-minute lunch is pretty standard."

About half of Pasco County high schools have one, including the new Cross Creek Middle-High School.

Nelson said students want to protest, but worry that Mellin isn't interested in listening.

"It would have helped if he had said, "These are the things we need to do. Let's figure out how to accomplish it,' " he suggested. "As principal, he should be looking at what do the people he represents want."

Mellin said he welcomed the teens' point of view, and he pledged to meet with anyone and respond in writing to questions, too.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.

Students upset with schedule changes at Land O'Lakes High School 05/11/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 6:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Mother's testimony about toddler's death brings judge to tears


    TAMPA — Nayashia Williams woke up early on May 7, 2014, to the sound of her daughter calling for her. It was the last time the young mother's mornings would begin with a summons from Myla Presley, who couldn't yet climb over the mesh fencing around the playpen she used as a bed.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing the 19 month-old daughter of his girlfriend in 2014. He said the child fell while he was giving her a bath. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  2. Speakers: Getting tough can't be only response to teen car thefts


    ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Dillinger remembers coming to Pinellas County as a legal intern in 1975. There were five major poverty zones in St. Petersburg.

    Wengay Newton, Florida House of Representatives (in front, in center), talks as a panelist to a packed room during a community forum on "Reclaiming our Youth: Is Juvenile Justice a Reality?" at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg Wednesday evening (10/17/17). The event was presented by the Fred G. Minnis, Sr. Bar Association. Community leaders discussed the ongoing auto theft epidemic among Pinellas youth.
  3. Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility and spousal abuse


    White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Donald Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter told the …

  4. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker


    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.