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Once again, halls buzz with activity

Inside the building, everything was clean and quiet. The existing facility at the CREST School in Lecanto for disabled children was renovated and ready to receive the first day's students. Outside, the new additions, including a gymnasium, art lab and library, were unfinished.

Assistant principal Anita Moon says she anticipates the buildings will be completed in November and will open after the Christmas break.

Monday at CREST, a new program began helping students with communication problems. The augmentative communication class, taught by Jerry Ring who just arrived a week ago from Colorado, will focus on language needs using, Ring said, "lots of adaptive equipment and lots of switches."

She is familiar with and will implement the program, called TEACCH _ Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication-handicapped Children.

Down the hall, substitute teacher Kristina Tucker was busy washing assorted small toys in preparation for the elementary-age children. The toys would be used in an icebreaker and sorting exercise.

A common comment heard throughout the neat-as-a-pin school was, "You should have seen it last week."

Teacher Rona Cooper gives all the credit for the cleanup to Bill Dexter and Bob Wilke. "The custodians of this school have done an absolutely amazing job of clearing and buffing the hall," she said, explaining that during the summer it was a mass of wheelbarrows and all kinds of caution signs.

"They worked and worked and worked and worked."

Until renovations are finished, two classes of CREST students are using rooms at Lecanto Middle School. Principal James Halcomb said he is happy to have them. It is no strain on the school, which he says has about 800 students. "We can house a thousand."

Halcomb said his school had a very smooth opening. The only problem was a late bus.

Some new-to-the-school sixth-graders might not have agreed with him as they struggled with their lockers.

"My locker's broke!"

"Want me to open yours?"

"Do you turn it around two times the first time?"

And, at last, "Oh my gosh! I got it open!"

The seventh-graders around the corner were a bit more confident, and 12-year-old Kevin Wiemann even said, "So far, it's kind of cool" about the first day back. (Classmate Bret Baliszewski stood by muttering, "Lying, lying, lying.")

He admitted that he likes school _ although sometimes it's a pain _ but said, "I wish I had more time out of school."

A knot of seventh-grade girls nearby were a little worried about the new grade level. "I was kind of nervous to come into seventh grade," said Lindsay Danback, 12. "I wasn't nervous in sixth grade. I guess I'm glad to be back in school, because summer was kind of boring, and I'm glad to see my friends."

Twelve-year-old Rebecca Hebard agreed. "I was kind of scared, too. I mean, seventh grade, oh, my gosh! I'm kind of scared of what my grades might be, because it's seventh grade! And I'm glad to see my friends, too."

At principal Steve Guyler's Lecanto Primary School, things were going great, but with the alternative schedule, today was the first day for only part of the student body. "We've had 153 kids here for three weeks," Guyler said.

Lecanto Primary is big and Guyler expects an enrollment this year of about 1,000 children. "We have been getting all the new students from Beverly Hills," he said. The school has been grouping them together in classes to ease the transition when the new school opens in about a year.

Guyler strongly encourages parents in the proposed area for the new school to attend the public meetings Thursday at Citrus Springs Elementary School, Monday at Hernando Elementary School, Aug. 17 at Beverly Hills Community Center, and Aug. 19 at Lecanto Primary School.

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