Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Enrollment, Class Sizes Down Slightly; Nassau: School District Gears Up for New Year

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Enrollment, Class Sizes Down Slightly; Nassau: School District Gears Up for New Year

Article excerpt

Byline: Alison Trinidad, Nassau Neighbors staff writer

It's back to books and homework for Nassau County children, who return to school Aug. 8.

School officials are preparing for an estimated 10,298 students to start the 2003-04 school year, down from 10,461 the same time last year.

Most classes will hover between 20 and 25 students, thanks to state voters who passed a constitutional amendment to reduce class sizes last year.

"Nassau County is very fortunate that our class sizes were very close to the target that the [Department of Education] determined for us, so there shouldn't be a drastic change," said Linda Morris, director of elementary education.

But some secondary schools had to make a few adjustments. Fernandina Beach Middle School Principal John Mazella hired five new teachers to decrease class sizes, and 10 more portable classrooms were moved to the Fernandina Beach High School campus to address overcrowding.

"I haven't had to hire any teachers for six years," Mazella said. "But I think [smaller classes] will have a positive impact on the whole school and environment."

The additional portables at FBHS will give all teachers their own classrooms.

"There are no floating teachers," FBHS Assistant Principal Scott Hodges said. "All teachers will have a classroom and a planning period, so that will be an improvement from last year."

School officials say there are no major changes in school policy or procedure that students or parents should worry about, but high school students interested in entering a three-year graduation program, an option mandated by state legislators this year, can meet with school administrators when school resumes.

"We will meet with interested students in the first month of school," Hodges said. "Unfortunately, this year, there's not much flexibility to add new classes, but students have the option for virtual school and dual enrollment."

There are a few new faculty members, including new principals at Yulee Middle and Yulee Primary schools. Deonia Simmons, formerly the assistant principal at the middle school, assumes Suzanne Davis' spot. Davis now is the director of Personnel Services for the school district. At Yulee Primary, Jennifer Gray replaces Jean Griffin, who retired last year.

The Nassau Community Academy, a voluntary dropout prevention program for students behind schedule to graduate, will meet at 8:15 a.m., a half-hour later than last year.

New students who still need to register should call their area school for registration dates and requirements.

All schools will have orientation sessions for parents and their children before school starts to introduce key administration, staff and faculty as well as allow for campus tours. Teachers will be on hand to review classroom policies and answer questions. Students also will receive their class schedules.

Nassau County schools earned high marks from the state based on student scores on the 2003 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test -- all schools either improved or maintained their grades. …

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