Back to School Citrus County: Back to school already? District pushes innovative ideas

2:17 PM, Aug 8, 2012   |    comments
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Inverness, Florida -- Kids in one Tampa Bay area county started class today, around two weeks ahead of most districts. And that's not the only way they're doing school differently.

Why do the first bells ring at Citrus County schools about two weeks ahead of most others?

Simply put, they're doing such a good job, they're allowed to rewrite the rules.

Moms and dads who squeezed their kids and sent them into Inverness Primary School on Wednesday morning watched their little ones walk into an "A" graded school.

That "A" grade is shared with 93 percent of Citrus County's schools. Because of the high marks, the state considers Citrus a "high performing district."

"As a high performing district, we apply for a waiver from the State of Florida" to end classes early in the Spring and start early in the Fall, explained Superintendent Sandra "Sam" Himmel.

"We start early, we get our semesters done by the end of December, and we work in conjunction with our colleges to make sure our dual-enrollment students have similar schedules," she said.

It's not just an early start on the calendar, it's an early start in the morning; school buses rolled as the sun rose Wednesday, picking up students for rides to the district's nearly two dozen schools.

We brought you onboard one of those first buses live on The Morning Show. On the road to Citrus High School, we picked up a handful of nervous ninth graders.

Anxious about the scale of your new high school world? Well, talk to Dalton Homan or any of his friends in yellow shirts. They're part of the Link Crew.

"I know the first couple of days are scary... And they're looking for somebody to help them," said Homan, who's starting his senior year at CHS.

"And [the freshmen] see the different-colored shirts that stand out. They're like, "Oh, he knows what I need to do.'"

Link Crew was set up by the Citrus County School District to keep kids engaged at that time of transition from middle school to high school -- a time when they had found dropouts tended to rise.

"The first few days of your freshman year are really critical to see, 'Ok, either I love high school, or I hate high school," explained Grey Pospiech, another yellow-shirted Link Crew volunteer.

"That's the difference between someone failing out of high school and dropping out or becoming the valedictorian of their class."

Students at all levels will be checked to make sure they didn't suffer too much Summer "brain drain."

Their reading and math scores will be compared to scores kept since each child started in school. If they show a significant drop, teachers will know to focus on those skills and get them back on track.

They're trying out some new technology this year in one Citrus County school.

For years, they've had small multiple-choice "clickers" students can press to give a simple answer to a teacher's question. It lets teachers assess really quickly whether their students are catching on to what they're discussing.

Starting Wednesday, one school's seventh graders will get iPads, loaded with the textbooks they'll need for the year. It's a pilot program, and if it's successful, it'll likely be expanded across the county in coming school years.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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