Lutz, Maniscalco and Pizzo elementary schools will begin converting to pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade schools beginning this fall.
The change will start with each of the elementary schools adding sixth grade in the fall. The following year, seventh grade will be added, and the following year, eighth grade.
The idea is to make the transition gradually.
Students living in those attendance zones will have the option of attending their zoned middle school, or staying in their current schools, under the district’s School Choice option.
Priority will be given to students who currently reside within the school boundary, followed by students currently attending the school via the choice process, then students who live outside the boundary and are not currently enrolled at the school.
Applications are available at each school office or on the schools’ websites and will be accepted daily at the schools through March 23.
Each of the schools will be able to accommodate 110 sixth-graders.
Reaction to the new option has been positive, said Tammy Reale, principal at Maniscalco Elementary, and Lori Branham, principal at Lutz Elementary, during a joint interview with The Laker/Lutz News.
During the interview, parents and students from Maniscalco Elementary, 939 Debuel Road, expressed positive feedback about the plan.
Monique Helms, who lives in Carrollwood, said her daughter, Remi, already attends Maniscalco through School Choice.
A lot of kids from Kiddie Campus University (KCU) attend Maniscalco, Helms explained.
She’s delighted that Remi will be able to stay at Maniscalco for middle school.
“I love the culture here. The teachers here are amazing. And, so are Mr. (Joshua) Phillips (assistant principal) and Miss Reale (principal). We’ve just been very fortunate,” she said. “I used to be a middle school teacher many, many years ago, and it’s a really tough transition. So, we were happy that they’re adding sixth grade.”
David Henry, whose 10-year-old son, Bryce, attends Maniscalco, is enthusiastic about the new option, too.
“This is a great environment for Bryce,” Henry said, noting his son also is from KCU. “He’s been here since kindergarten and has thoroughly enjoyed it. And, we look forward to him being here as a sixth-grader,” Henry said.
Henry, who attended a K-8 school when he was young, likes that approach to education.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids. I think the transition, from eighth to ninth grade, is much easier than from fifth to sixth, and from seventh to eighth,” he said.
Ten-year-old Riley Silkworth, a current fifth-grader at Maniscalco, is happy that she’ll be able to stay there next year.
“I like that Maniscalco is going to do K-8 because it’s way closer for me. I live 3 minutes away,” she said.
“We are going to know most of the people who are already going to be here, because most of the people are going to stay. We’re still going to have the same teachers around us,” she added.
Remi and Bryce also had good things to say.
“We’re going to be able to stay with our friends,” Remi said. “The only thing I don’t like about it is that it’s going to be even sadder when we have to leave in eighth grade.”
Bryce said he likes knowing his way around campus. He said he can’t think of anything that would be a downside from the school’s transition to a K-8 campus.
Helms said the only concern that she’s heard expressed was whether students leaving a K-8 environment would make a smooth transition into high school.
She’s confident that Remi will.
District officials say that the curriculum offered will be consistent with other K-8 schools and there will be after-school activities, but there won’t be athletic teams until there are students in grades six through eight on the campuses.
Traditional middle schools in Hillsborough County are scheduled to begin the school day at 9:25 a.m. next year, but these K-8 schools are expected to start their days at 7:40 a.m., which is on the same schedule as the district’s middle schools.
All three also will continue to offer pre-K programs.
The schools are able to transition to a K-8 program because they are currently operating under capacity.
Although Lutz has experienced some residential growth in recent years, there are also other educational options available nearby, including Lutz Preparatory School, Learning Gate Community School, Sunlake Academy of Math and Science, and Imagine School of Land O’ Lakes.
How to apply
Pick up an application at the schools or download one from their websites
Lutz: 202 Fifth Ave., S.E., or Lutz.mysdhc.org
Maniscalco: 939 Debuel Road or Maniscalco.mysdhc.org
Pizzo: 11701 USF Bull Run or Pizzo.mysdhc.org
Published March 7, 2018