One of the few school districts in Florida that's still growing, Pasco County continues to need new schools.
Two more open to students on Aug. 18.
Veterans Elementary, on State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel, is slated to start the year with about 760 children who previously attended Quail Hollow and Seven Oaks elementary schools. Crews Lake Elementary, on Shady Hills Drive in Shady Hills, is projected to debut with 650 students primarily from River Ridge, Pine View and Hudson middle schools.
Meanwhile, design and construction continue on four other schools: high schools in Holiday and Hudson, and elementary schools in Connerton and the Watergrass subdivision of Wesley Chapel. All but the Hudson-area high school are scheduled to open in August 2009.
Veterans Elementary aims to live up to its name. The school has a red, white and blue motif down to the flooring, the book Dear Soldier is prominently displayed on the front desk, and even the school's Boxtops for Kids collection box has a flag design on it.
Principal Donna Busby, who came to the school from Moon Lake Elementary, said a key focus beyond the academics will be service. Each team of classes will select an organization to work with during the year. "We want to give back to the community and make some positive contributions," Busby said.
Of note academically, the school plans to focus on hands-on science lessons at least twice each week. It also will offer 15 additional minutes of daily math instruction beyond the state required hour of curriculum, making sure that lessons are tailored to individual needs.
Veterans has got the latest technology, too. Every teacher will have a laptop, and students will have regular access to computers and other equipment, Busby said.
Assistant principal Jason Petry is developing a school-wide discipline plan that all teachers will follow. That way, he said, children will receive consistent treatment.
Crews Lake Middle is Pasco's second three-story school, with all classroom doors inside the building instead of facing out. Based on the same design as Rushe Middle in Land O'Lakes, the new school has just one way in and out during classes, helping to control the building when necessary.
Sixth-graders will occupy the bottom floor, seventh-graders and the media center will take up the center floor and eighth-graders will be on top.
In planning, principal Chris Christoff, who came to the school from Seven Springs Middle, said he aimed to funnel as many dollars into new technology as possible. "I wanted to find a way where you can get kids on the Internet with computers in their hands," he said.
The school has one portable computer lab per floor, plus a laptop lab and a 30-station computer center in the library. It also has purchased several Apple iTouches, small hand-held machines that kids can use at their desks to do online research.
Christoff also is creating a school learning lab that will be staffed with teachers who rotate in and out. Struggling students will be able to go to the lab for extra help during the four periods a day it's open.
As he did at Seven Springs, Christoff said he will encourage teachers to look for instructional models that have strong support in research.
"We have the opportunity to do new things from the get-go," Christoff said. "As a new school, there is no canvas. We can do what we need to do."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614.