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It’s back to school today for Tampa Bay kids

Visits spotlight new initiatives as about 400,000 students return to class.
 
With the welcome sign displayed in the lawn, the East Lake High school band heads out to the school entrance to perform as students arrive on the school campus on the first day of school at East Lake Middle and East Lake High on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023 in Tarpon Springs.
With the welcome sign displayed in the lawn, the East Lake High school band heads out to the school entrance to perform as students arrive on the school campus on the first day of school at East Lake Middle and East Lake High on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023 in Tarpon Springs. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Aug. 10, 2023|Updated Aug. 10, 2023

The first bell of the new school year rang across the Tampa Bay area on Thursday, bringing an 11-week summer break to its inevitable end. More than 400,000 students returned to classrooms in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, where they were greeted by more than 40,000 teachers and staff. Back-to-school day gives students a chance to reconnect with friends they haven’t seen for a while, while meeting their new teachers and learning what’s expected of them for the coming year. One down, 179 to go.

Interim Superintendent Van Ayres, right, gives a high-five to Elijah Shelton, 7, of Land O’Lakes, during the first day of school at Carrollwood K-8 School on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in Tampa.
Interim Superintendent Van Ayres, right, gives a high-five to Elijah Shelton, 7, of Land O’Lakes, during the first day of school at Carrollwood K-8 School on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in Tampa. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

Hillsborough

Van Ayres, interim superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools, joined members of his cabinet and Sheriff Chad Chronister at Carrollwood K-8 School in Tampa on the first leg of his tour on the first day of classes on Thursday. The Carrollwood school served grades K-5 until a parent group pushed to add middle school grades, starting this year with sixth. Other stops included Tampa Bay Boulevard and Booker T. Washington elementary schools, which are both receiving students from the recently closed Just Elementary; and D.W. Waters Career Center, where the district is introducing a medical arts program. First-day enrollment numbers were up slightly from last year, at 203,368 including 33,189 at charter schools, which are managed independently. Enrollment was up in elementary and K-8 schools, and down in middle and high schools. Charter’s share of enrollment grew from 13.6 to 16.3%.

Mamatha Mutyala, 53, walks her son, Punieth Mutyala, 8, to class.
Mamatha Mutyala, 53, walks her son, Punieth Mutyala, 8, to class. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Crossing guard Tony Pinion gives a fist bump to Andrés Cantero, 4, walking to school with his father, Angel Cantero, 48, both of Carrollwood, for the first day of classes at Carrollwood K-8 School.
Crossing guard Tony Pinion gives a fist bump to Andrés Cantero, 4, walking to school with his father, Angel Cantero, 48, both of Carrollwood, for the first day of classes at Carrollwood K-8 School. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, left, greets Interim Superintendent Van Ayres, while they wait for students arriving by school bus.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister, left, greets Interim Superintendent Van Ayres, while they wait for students arriving by school bus. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Kids arrive with backpacks and school supplies in tow as parents drop them off at the front entrance.
Kids arrive with backpacks and school supplies in tow as parents drop them off at the front entrance. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Leondra Brooks, 27, walks her daughter, Lana Brooks, 7, past a welcome sign at Carrollwood K-8 School on their way to class.
Leondra Brooks, 27, walks her daughter, Lana Brooks, 7, past a welcome sign at Carrollwood K-8 School on their way to class. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]

Pinellas

Kevin Hendrick kicked off his second year as Pinellas County superintendent by welcoming students and employees back to school. He started at the district’s new bus depot, offering support to drivers as they headed out on new routes designed to reduce late arrivals on campus and back home. The tour next landed at East Lake High and East Lake Middle, where sleepy sixth-through-eighth graders were starting classes nearly two hours earlier than last year. Middle schools are a focus for the district this year, with expanded programs and activities aimed at making students more interested in attending.

Buses line up in a school parking lot after dropping off students on the first day of classes at East Lake Middle and East Lake High in Tarpon Springs.
Buses line up in a school parking lot after dropping off students on the first day of classes at East Lake Middle and East Lake High in Tarpon Springs. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
District Superintendent Kevin Hendrick smiles as he greets students arriving at East Lake High and the adjacent East Lake Middle.
District Superintendent Kevin Hendrick smiles as he greets students arriving at East Lake High and the adjacent East Lake Middle. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Students head onto the East Lake campus during early morning hours.
Students head onto the East Lake campus during early morning hours. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Zaideb Blanch, a freshman, waits for his football teammates to enter East Lake High together. Blanch is a defensive back on the JV football team.
Zaideb Blanch, a freshman, waits for his football teammates to enter East Lake High together. Blanch is a defensive back on the JV football team. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Avri Goodlet, left, and Madison Leasure, both sixth graders, are greeted by East Lake Middle principal Karen Huzar. “Some of my middle schoolers are now in high school so it’s nice to seem them progress,” Huzar said while saying hello to students from both schools.
Avri Goodlet, left, and Madison Leasure, both sixth graders, are greeted by East Lake Middle principal Karen Huzar. “Some of my middle schoolers are now in high school so it’s nice to seem them progress,” Huzar said while saying hello to students from both schools. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Michelle Eisner, left, and Samantha Carpio, both seniors, wear Hawaiian leis given out to all the East Lake seniors as they wait for a friend to arrive so they can enter the school together.
Michelle Eisner, left, and Samantha Carpio, both seniors, wear Hawaiian leis given out to all the East Lake seniors as they wait for a friend to arrive so they can enter the school together. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Pasco

Pasco County debuted two new schools this fall, as it continued to address rising enrollment projections. Superintendent Kurt Browning greeted students and staff as they arrived at Angeline Academy of Innovation, a middle-high school magnet near Wesley Chapel that’s focused on science and technology. The district also unveiled its first school dedicated to early education, based on the former campus of Mittye P. Locke Elementary, which closed at the end of the 2022-23 year. Also new for students this year were stricter rules governing cellphone usage. Browning reminded families about the new requirements early in the week, and stressed that enforcement will be serious.

Students arrive by bus at Angeline Academy of Innovation for the first day of classes in Land O'Lakes. The magnet school will service approximately 855 students grades 6-10, eventually opening to approximately 1,660 students in grades 6-12.
Students arrive by bus at Angeline Academy of Innovation for the first day of classes in Land O'Lakes. The magnet school will service approximately 855 students grades 6-10, eventually opening to approximately 1,660 students in grades 6-12. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Students make their way into the building before classes begin at Angeline Academy of Innovation.
Students make their way into the building before classes begin at Angeline Academy of Innovation. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning talks with sixth grader Sebastian Matos, 11, of Land O’Lakes outside Angeline Academy of Innovation.
Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning talks with sixth grader Sebastian Matos, 11, of Land O’Lakes outside Angeline Academy of Innovation. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
William DeMott, 38, of Land O’Lakes, left, arrives with his son, Chase DeMott, 11, a sixth grader at Angeline Academy of Innovation.
William DeMott, 38, of Land O’Lakes, left, arrives with his son, Chase DeMott, 11, a sixth grader at Angeline Academy of Innovation. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Zanqia Holmes, 28, of New Port Richey, hugs her son, Jhamir Davis, 4, goodbye, on the first day of school at Mittye P. Locke Early Learning Academy in New Port Richey. The school is the first in the Pasco County district dedicated to early learning.
Zanqia Holmes, 28, of New Port Richey, hugs her son, Jhamir Davis, 4, goodbye, on the first day of school at Mittye P. Locke Early Learning Academy in New Port Richey. The school is the first in the Pasco County district dedicated to early learning. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Nash Stipanovich, 4, of New Port Richey, sticks close to his mother, Kristen Surrett, 36, for the first day of class at Mittye P. Locke Early Learning Academy.
Nash Stipanovich, 4, of New Port Richey, sticks close to his mother, Kristen Surrett, 36, for the first day of class at Mittye P. Locke Early Learning Academy. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]