SPRING HILL — Only a few years ago, Westside Elementary was struggling. During the 2013-14 school year, the school received a D grade from the state. It would have been an F if not for the state's "safety net" rule, which prevents schools from dropping multiple grade levels from year to year.
But after Kristina Stratton stepped in as principal the next school year, things began turning around. That year began a streak of B grades, an achievement Westside maintained — until the 2017-18 school year.
In June, Westside Elementary School earned an A grade from the state.
Before kicking off the new school year, Stratton and her administrative staff hosted an "A" School Celebration on Aug. 11 at the school.
The event was held in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Hernando County, and local business partner Brain Freeze Italian Ice was on site. More than 300 families joined in the festivities, along with community members and school district staff, who enjoyed free carnival games, crafts, food, a bounce house, face painting and dancing.
"We wanted to celebrate the school's success, to celebrate teachers and students," Stratton said. "Our teachers set high expectations for students, and they had risen to the occasion."
After learning about the A grade, Stratton said school staff members visited the home of every student in the third through fifth grades who received a Level 5 on the Florida Standards Assessment in English language arts, math and science. Partnering with the Boys and Girls Club, teachers and administrators surprised each student with a poster and T-shirt.
As school starts back up this year, the mission is to continue the hard work.
"I have the most amazing teachers and staff," Stratton said. "They put their heart and soul into this school every day."