Changes afoot, as school bells ring in a new year

School bells are summoning students back to classes in Hillsborough and Pasco counties — and some students will be attending classes on entirely new campuses.

Sunlake Academy of Math and Science, a new public charter school in Hillsborough County, begins its inaugural school year on Aug. 10. It is located at 18681 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Lutz.

Sunlake Academy of Math and Science, at 18681 N. Dale Mabry Highway, is opening this year as a new public charter school in Hillsborough County. The school, located in Lutz, will serve elementary and middle school students. (B.C. Manion)

Meanwhile, Pasco County is opening Bexley Elementary, at 4380 Ballantrae Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes, and Cypress Creek Middle High School, in Wesley Chapel.

Students arriving at Land O’ Lakes High School will find reconfigured spaces, to accommodate a $29 million makeover.

At Sunlake High School and Rushe Middle School, there will be a new traffic pattern for student drop-off and pickups, and at Wiregrass Ranch High, the school will be back to operating on a seven-period day.

Those are just a few of the changes in store for the new school year, which begins in Hillsborough County on Aug. 10 and in Pasco County on Aug. 14.

Some changes, which are state mandates, affect public school students in both counties.

Other changes affect students at a particular school or within a specific county.

For instance, the Pasco school district is revising its crisis plans to give students and staff a better chance to survive an active threat on campus.

Meanwhile, Principal Vicki Wolin will lead the new Bexley Elementary School, in the Bexley subdivision off State Road 54, in Land O’ Lakes. That school was built to ease crowding at Oakstead and Odessa elementary schools.

Bexley is also part of the school district’s feeder pattern for the Aviation Academy at Sunlake High School.

As such, Bexley will have drones, flight simulators and robotics. Its STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lab is situated in its media center, which it calls its REC Center, which stands for Research, Engage and Collaborate.

Cypress Creek Middle High School, at 8701 Old Pasco Road in Wesley Chapel, will serve students previously assigned to Wiregrass Ranch, Wesley Chapel and Sunlake high schools and John Long, Weightman and Rushe middle schools.

Principal Carin Hetzler-Nettles, previously principal at Wesley Chapel High, will recognize many of the students streaming onto the campus for their first day.

But, there will be many unfamiliar faces, too.

The school has been hosting events ahead of opening day to help students get acquainted with the school and to find out what it has to offer.

Cypress Creek Middle High will serve sixth- through 11th-graders its initial year and will add a senior class its second year.

The new high school’s curriculum runs the gamut from ballet to digital design to American Sign Language. It offers several certification programs, including Microsoft Office, QuickBooks and Autodesk Inventor.

Cypress Creek’s middle school curriculum includes Criminal Justice and Engineering academies, plus core classes.

The new schools aren’t the only places where Pasco County students will have a chance for new experiences.

The district also is expanding its Cambridge Programme to San Antonio Elementary School.

And, Zephyrhills High School is adding a new academy of Building Construction Technology and Public Safety Telecommunications 911 certification for the Academy of Criminal Justice.

A new public charter school also has opened in Pasco County, too, bringing the district’s total number of charter schools to 11. The new charter is called Pasco MYcroSchool and is located in New Port Richey.

Besides new schools and programs, Pasco County also has shifted some principals since last school year and promoted an assistant principal to the top post.

Those changes are:

  • Principal Scott Atkins has moved from Sand Pine Elementary School to West Zephyrhills Elementary School.
  • Christine Twardosz has transferred from Centennial Elementary School to Sand Pine.
  • Gretchen Rudolph Fladd has moved from Veterans to Centennial.
  • Melissa Bidgood, who was an assistant principal at Watergrass Elementary, has been promoted to the principal’s post at Veterans.

Parents wanting to know more about the upcoming school year should check out their school’s website.

School websites can provide a wealth of information. They generally list important upcoming dates for school activities, such as cheerleader tryouts, booster club meetings, school spirit nights and parent-teacher events.

The websites also often let parents know how they can get involved at school and how they can help their children at home.

Most schools also have Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and some post videos to YouTube, too.

Websites maintained by the Hillsborough and Pasco school districts can also provide useful information, too.

Free breakfasts
Pasco County Schools will serve free breakfasts to all students at these sites in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area during the 2017-2018 school year:

Elementary schools

  • Centennial Elementary
  • Chester Taylor Elementary
  • Lacoochee Elementary
  • Pasco Elementary
  • Quail Hollow Elementary
  • Rodney B. Cox Elementary
  • West Zephyrhills Elementary
  • Woodland Elementary

Middle schools:

  • Centennial Middle
  • Pasco Middle
  • Stewart Middle

High schools:

  • Pasco High
  • Zephyrhills High


Meal prices for Pasco County Schools
Reduced-price meals

Reduced-price breakfast: .30
Reduced-price lunch: .40
Full-price meals
Full-price breakfast
Elementary: $1.35
Secondary: $1.50
Charter, K-8: $1.50
Charter, high school: $1.60
Full-price lunch
Elementary: $2.50
Middle: $3
High: $3.25

Published August 9, 2017

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