The vibe was upbeat as music played and a slideshow offered images of Cypress Creek Middle High, a new school under construction off Old Pasco Road.
Parents and students filed into the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel High School, filling much of the auditorium.
They were there to find out what to expect for middle schoolers at the new school, and Principal Carin Hetzler-Nettles was ready.
The principal held back-to-back information sessions on the evening of Feb. 15. One was tailored to middle school students and their parents; the other, for high school students and their parents.
Both sessions were well-attended.
Some of the information was the same for both, but some was tailored to the specific age group.
In both presentations, members of the audience were taken on a pre-recorded virtual tour of the new school, with Nettles leading the way.
Wearing a white construction hat during the video, Nettles stepped through the school, offering details about the physical plant and future plans.
During the virtual tour and in her live presentation, Hetzler-Nettles provided a detailed account of how many students are expected, where they will be housed, and what types of academic and athletic programs will be offered.
During the upcoming school year, there will be students in grades six through 11 on campus.
Projections show an estimated 840 middle school students in the coming school year, and 650 high school students, she said.
There are two large two-story classroom buildings on the campus, and an administration building with classroom space on the second floor, Hetzler-Nettles said.
The current plan is to house the middle schoolers in one of the large classroom buildings, with the overflow being on the second floor of the administration building, Hetzler-Nettles said.
The high school students are expected to be housed in the other large, two-story classroom building, which is closer to the student parking lot, she said.
On the academic side for middle schoolers, there will be a full array of academic and elective courses. There also will three Middle School Academy Programs: Business Management, Criminal Justice, and Engineering and Robotics.
Courses offered will be dictated by student demand, she said. So, if a course isn’t listed on a course card, students should write it in.
If there’s enough demand, it will be added, she said.
Regarding athletics, the middle school will offer the same athletics as offered by other middle schools, she said.
The school will have four separate locker rooms. There will be one for high school girls and one for middle school girls. There will be one for high school boys and one for middle school boys.
The locker rooms will be separated by a coach’s office, she said.
The gym also will have a screen that can be pulled down to divide it so that high school and middle school physical education programs, and practices, can be held separately, she said.
The school also plans to have separate band programs for the high school and the middle school.
From a logistics point of view, the high school and middle school students will ride the bus together, which is something that already occurs at a number of district schools, the principal said. Middle school students will ride in the first 10 rows of the bus and high schoolers will ride in the back, she said.
The school day will start and end at the same time for both middle and high school students, she said. Right now, it’s looking like school will start at 7:25 a.m. or 7:30 a.m., and will end at 1:50 p.m. or 1:55 p.m., but that is subject to change.
High school and middle school students also will eat in the same cafeteria and use the same media center, but at different times, the principal said.
The principal said she’s not sure how many positions she will be able to fill because she won’t have that information until around April. For now, she has advertised half of the position she expects to be able to fill.
The principal also fielded numerous questions from the audience, ranging from why the school will not offer self-contained gifted classes, to whether there will be uniforms, to whether the school will have agri-science classes.
The school will not have self-contained classes for gifted students, but instead will have an inclusion model, Hetzler-Nettles said.
As a high school principal, she said she’s seen students in self-contained gifted classes have trouble making the transition to high school, where there are no self-contained gifted classes.
As far as requiring uniforms for students, Nettles had this answer: “No way!” — prompting laughter from the audience.
The answer to the agri-science question was less clear. The school doesn’t plan to start out with it, but if enough students want it, it could add it, the principal said.
The principal also emphasized that although middle school and high school students will share the same campus, they will be in separate buildings and will be using common facilities at different times.
Hetzler-Nettles also assured the crowd that she understands that making the transition from elementary to middle school, and from middle school to high school, is challenging.
Fifth-graders who are anxious about coming to middle school don’t need to worry, she said.
“We’re going to help you out. It’s going to be fine. You’re going to love it,” she said.
She also noted that making the transition to a new school can be difficult, too, and she and her staff are committed to making it a positive transition for students and their parents.
She told the audience that she’s excited about the new possibilities that Cypress Creek Middle High will offer, and she encouraged parents and students to get involved to help make the school all that it can be.
“Parents, if you’re interested in volunteering, we’re going to need a lot of help. I would love it if you would reach out to me. I’m it, right now.
“Just let me know what you’re interested in helping with, or if you have no idea what you’re willing to help with, you’re just willing to help. I’m going create a list, I’m going to keep all that information, and then we’re going to be calling you up when we need help,” she said.
She also urged students to share their ideas with her.
She wants the school to be a place they enjoy and where they can thrive.
“The most important thing at a school is the student voice. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. School is what you make it, just as life is what you make it. I want to hear your thoughts and your opinions. You can tell me the things you want to see at your school and the things you’d really like to have,” the principal said.
Cypress Creek Middle High School
Mascot: The Coyotes
School colors: Green and yellow
For information: Visit CCMHS.pasco.k12.fl.us
Next week, we’ll present the principal’s session for high school parents and students.
Published February 22, 2017