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School bells ready to ring in Hernando

Leading up to the start of school Monday, we checked in with Hernando County School District leaders to see what the schools have been up to over the summer, and what's coming this year. Changes to lunch, updates to facilities, a new plan for recess and more — here's a rundown of things to know for the 180 school days ahead.

And the winner is . . .

Three hundred fifteen Hernando County students this summer competed in superintendent Lori Romano's Summer Reading Challenge, logging more than 6,300 hours. Bonita Lunt, a fifth-grader from Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, won the challenge with 126 1/2 hours of reading. With her help, Challenger was the overall school winner with students clocking 1,501 3/4 total hours.

Play time

A massive education bill signed into law by state legislators this summer includes a mandate requiring 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess every day for Florida students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The Florida Department of Education has left logistical decisions, like location and scheduling, in the hands of school districts. Hernando's leaders have decided to pass them another level down, to individual elementary schools, meaning principals and teachers will decide the way the new requirement pans out. The law does not apply to charter schools.

Free lunch eligibility

All students at the following schools will be eligible for free breakfast and/or lunch through the new federally funded Community Eligibility Provision food and nutrition program: Brooksville, Deltona, Eastside, J.D. Floyd, Moton, Pine Grove, Spring Hill, Suncoast and Westside elementary schools; Explorer K-8 and Winding Waters K-8; Parrott, Fox Chapel, Powell and West Hernando middle schools and Discovery Academy. Parents of children at schools not participating in the program may still complete an application to be sent home with students for free and reduced-price meals.

Changes at the top

Superintendent Lori Romano made some changes to her cabinet this summer, shifting around the titles and responsibilities of three top administrators. Deputy superintendent Gina Michalicka, who recently served as deputy superintendent — a spot now filled by Heather Martin, who was previously executive director for business services — was moved to be executive director for academic services, a position formerly owned by John Stratton, who was moved to be executive director for business services. Sean Arnold, executive director for support operations, maintained his post.

All but one administrator at the school level stayed the same from last year, according to the district. Weeki Wachee High School replaced one assistant principal after assistant principal Bev Chapin retired.

A new slogan

The district has adopted a new slogan for the 2017-18 school year: "Game On — Lead. Innovate. Transform." Superintendent Lori Romano says the theme was chosen to represent the district's "bold spirit of embracing the future with a renewed sense of confidence in our ability to make great things happen for our students." She says the district will be dedicated to finding new ways to amp up instruction and bring innovation to the classroom.

How to connect

Want to be more connected to your child's education? Download the free "HCSD Mobile" app to get updates on bus routes, add money to your child's lunch account, find information about school events and keep up with important notifications straight from the district. Updates can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @HernandoSchools and on Facebook @HernandoSchoolsFL.

Construction zones

The district has been busy with updates and improvements to schools all summer. Here are some of the major jobs accomplished:

• Replacement of bleachers and wood floor in gymnasium, Springstead High

• Resurfacing of running track, Hernando High and Springstead High

• New press box, Hernando High

• New fiber optic communication system, Hernando High

• New roof at Brooksville Elementary School

• Renovated kitchens at Westside Elementary, Brooksville Elementary, Fox Chapel Middle, Central High

• New entrance drive for parents to drop off and pick up students at Suncoast Elementary

School's out

Labor Day : Monday, Sept. 4

Professional day: Friday, Oct. 13

District in-service day: Friday, Oct. 27

Veterans Day: Friday, Nov. 10

Thanksgiving break: Monday-Friday, Nov. 20-24

End-of-semester early release days: Wednesday-Friday, Dec. 20-22

Winter break: Monday-Friday, Dec. 25-Jan. 5

Professional day: Monday, Jan. 8

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Monday, Jan. 15

Presidents Day: Monday, Feb. 19

Professional day: Friday, March 9

Spring break: Monday-Friday, March 12-16

Long weekend: Friday, March 30

Memorial Day: Monday, May 28

End-of-semester early release days: Wednesday-Friday, May 30-June 1

Some key contacts

Need information about a bus route? Call the transportation department at (352) 797-7003. For issues or questions related to food and nutrition, call (352) 797-7028. Phone numbers for other departments and staff members can be found online at hernandoschools.org or by calling the district's main line, (352) 797-7000.

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

School bells ready to ring in Hernando 08/10/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 9, 2017 4:23pm]
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