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School board happy with proposed athletic-trainer program; asks for contract

Citrus County School Board members were satisfied with how school district staff is proposing to get athletic trainers onto campuses.

During its regular meeting Tuesday, April 12, the board agreed to have a contract drafted with the University of Florida Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute to hire four athletic trainers to work 40 hours a week for 44 weeks, from Aug. 1 to May 31.

Three of the trainers will each be assigned to one of the three county high schools, while the fourth will rotate among middle schools. Trainers will also provide support to unassigned schools if need be.

It’s estimated the total price tag for the trainers at 44 weeks will be $446,420, including $187,819 in start-up and continuous costs for equipment – an expense expected to decrease with the school district already owning some supplies.

“This is very important to me,” said school board member and Florida High School Athletic Association board president Doug Dodd. “Cost isn’t going to be an issue ... I think we can find the money to pay for it.”

Citrus County School District 


Board members will also consider second option of paying $510,271 to have four athletic trainers for 52 weeks to have summer conditionings and practices covered.

After board members tasked him at their last assembly to secure athletic-training services, Assistant Superintendent Jonny Bishop introduced school officials Tuesday to a proposal from UF Health’s institute, asking if that was what they had in mind.

Bishop said the proposal for Citrus County schools was born from a combination of inputs from UF Health and guidance from district staff and school athletic directors.

“If we are on the right track,” said Bishop, who’s also the school district’s athletic director, “…I plan to bring a contract back at the next board meeting for a vote.”

Bishop said the district will still communicate with other providers of athletic trainers to consider them as well.

Citrus County School District 


Shawn Giebner, a certified athletic trainer outreach manager for UF Health, told board members Tuesday there are around 1,200 high school and 1,000 middle school student athletes playing one or more sports, totaling 2,200.

“That’s a lot of athletes that you’re taking care of,” Giebner said, “and you think of the probability of the injuries that can happen with that, that’s a lot of risk that you guys are taking on – from an ankle sprain to an ACL tear.”

An athletic trainer, Giebner said, is a health care worker who’s nationally certified and state licensed to, under a physician’s direction, respond to a student’s athletic needs – whether it’s for either an acute or traumatic injury, and then rehabilitation to follow.

A UF Health athletic trainer will help document and keep record of a student’s medical records to assist with determining play eligibility, treatments and when a young athlete can return to the field after suffering an injury, taking responsibility off of coaches and schools.

Giebner said concussion tests and monitoring are also done to ensure student athletes of contact sports are capable to play again safely.

If an athletic trainer isn’t at a practice or a game during a situation or incident, Giebner said, a coach can call them for guidance on what to do while they respond.

UF Health trainers will also try to refer a student athlete to a UF Health physician within 24 hours.

Dodd and school board member Thomas Kennedy asked Giebner how UF Health’s athletic trainers would prioritize covering a busy sports season, like the fall, and when students play on and off campus.

Citrus County School District 


“I do still have worries and concerns,” Kennedy said, “…of equitability, ensuring that all schools and all sports are getting the same level of need.”

Giebner said practices and games for collision and contact sports, like football and soccer, take priority, with athletic directors and trainers deciding where best to next provide coverage for other sporting events.

While supportive of UF Health’s program, school board member Sandy Counts said she envisioned training school district employees in-house to become athletic trainers.

“Could we credential some of our own people?” she said, noting it could help with coverage.

Citrus County School District 


“Not to this level,” Bishop replied before Giebner said a certified trainer requires a master’s degree.

Dodd and Counts asked if medical professionals in the community could still volunteer their services alongside athletic trainers.

“We’re not going to push anyone out of doing that kind of thing,” Giebner responded.

Giebner said UF Health will try to keep athletic trainers hired for Citrus County assigned to the county for as long as possible.

“The hope is they would lay roots down here,” she said. “We’d like them to get know the schools, the students.”

This latest pursuit for school athletic trainers came after 16-year-old Citrus High School student Antonio Hicks died in September during a football practice.

An autopsy revealed Hicks died from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – when a thick heart muscle can cause an abnormal heart beat and cardiac arrest.

In 2008, Bishop asked then-school board members to move forward with developing an athletic training program, but the measure didn’t progress.

Jim Manos, a former head coach of the Lecanto High School varsity baseball team, offered on Tuesday to connect the school district with athletic trainers associated with the Atlanta Braves baseball organization and the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.

“Athletic trainers within the Citrus County school system, particularly the high schools, are long overdue,” he said.

Local Dan McKee Jr. credited an athletic trainer for putting his kneecap back into place after “it ended up 90 degrees on the wrong side” of his leg during a high school wrestling match.

“From that day on ... I and many other people were very very good customers of the athletic trainer; he helped everyone,” he said. “I don’t know what is done here if there’s an injury ... but I can’t see it being as effective. ... Athletic trainers aren’t a luxury, they’re a necessity.”

School board approves resolution supporting parents’ rights in education

School board members voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve a resolution, drafted by Kennedy, proclaiming and affirming their support of parents as partners in a child’s education.

“The School Board of Citrus County encourages all school district staff,” the resolution states, “to honor parents as the child’s primary teacher and collaborate with families to continue the longstanding commitment to provide a safe environment and ensure parents’ rights are respected when it comes to decisions about their children’s education and safety.”

Egg hunts lead into Easter

It’s time once again to get hoppin’ as Easter egg hunts and family activities abound around Citrus County this week, leading up to Easter Sunday.

Egg-streme Flashlight Hunt and Festival

Citrus County Parks and Recreation presents the annual Egg-streme Flashlight Hunt and Festival at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at Bicentennial Park in Crystal River. This free event is an evening Easter Egg Hunt and Festival prior to Good Friday each year.

The event is complete with games and food trucks, and eggs are filled with candy and toys for kids ages 1 to 16 to find in the fields at Bicentennial Park. The festival starts at 6 p.m. with games, inflatables and more, and hunts start at 7 p.m. with the youngest children collecting eggs before the sun sets and the older kids hunting with flashlights after sundown. Registration is required for each hunt at

Indoor Easter Egg Glow Hunt

River Life Baptist Church will host its indoor Easter Egg Glow Hunt from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, April 15. The event is open to children ages 2 to 10. The church is at 2872 W. Dunnellon Road. For information, call 352- 489-8455.

Wildlife park plans Egg-stravaganza

The Friends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park will host a Spring Egg-stravaganza starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, April 16, in the field behind the main entrance and Visitors Center of Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, 4150 S. Suncoast Blvd.

Hundreds of eggs will be available for children to find. Each age group will have gold and silver eggs, awarding the finder a special prize. Arrive early and visit with the Easter Bunny, bring a basket and create lasting memories.

There is no charge to participate in the Spring Egg-stravaganza. Regular park admission applies for entrance into the wildlife park.

For information, call 352-628-5343 or visit florida

First Baptist Homosassa egg hunt

First Baptist Church of Homosassa will host an Easter Egg Hunt from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 16, for pre-k to fifth grade. The church is at 10540 W. Yulee Drive. For information, call 352-628-3858.

Easter Eggstravaganza at Floral Park

The Connection Church of God will host an Easter Eggstravaganza – an egg hunt, with food and games – at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 16, at Floral Park in Floral City. It will be a time full of connecting and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. The egg hunt is open to kids up to fifth grade.

First AG Inverness

First AG Inverness will host an Easter Eggsplosion! Saturday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 4201 S. Pleasant Grove Road,, Inverness. They will have an egg hunt for ages 2-12, prizes, bounce houses, obstacle courses and more.

Seven Rivers Easter Egg Hunt

Don’t miss the Seven Rivers Children’s Ministry Easter Egg Hunt at Warrior Park, 4878 W. Southern St., Saturday, April 16, in Lecanto. There will be food, games, bounce houses, a dad’s kickball game and an Easter Egg Hunt. The event starts at 10 a.m., with Dad’s Kickball Game at 10:30 a.m. and egg hunt at 11:30.

Kids Spring Festival

There will be a Kids Spring Festival Saturday, April 16, at 11:15 a.m., at the Hernando Church of the Nazarene, 2101 N. Florida Ave., Hernando.

There will be free food, games, prizes, face painting and an Easter egg hunt.

Tamposi submits Betz farm offer

A last-minute offer on the 350-acre Betz Farm property in Crystal River prompted county commissioners Tuesday to table discussion of its sale until the April 26 meeting.

Lecanto Properties, LLC, of which local developer Steve Tamposi is general partnership manager, made an offer of $5.5 million.

Hamid Ashtari, a real estate developer at Tampa-based Sweetwater Group, earlier made an offer of $5.5 million and commissioners were set to discuss it Tuesday before the Tamposi offer came in. 

The property north of Turkey Oak Drive was appraised in 2020 at $5.38 million. Commissioners plan to use the proceeds from the sale to build a new animal shelter.

“We are reviewing the conditions of the offers and will be placing both on the next agenda and will make a recommendation for the board to consider,” County Administrator Randy Oliver said.

Animal shelter donation confusion causes vote delay

County commissioners Tuesday were poised to vote on a $986,000 design contract for a proposed new animal shelter.

But there was confusion as to where the money would come from to pay for it: the general fund or public donations.

The county has received $2.1 million in donations. But the board was not sure if that money was to be used for design costs or future facility add-ons.

The confusion was enough that the board tabled the matter. County Administrator Randy Oliver said he should have it straightened out in time for the April 26 meeting.

To date, the county has received $2,182,390 in donations for the new shelter, not including the $500,000 pledge from Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto.


Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach, who’s been leading the charge for this project, told the Chronicle on Wednesday the new shelter has much support in the community. The final size of the new facility is still unknown because the county doesn’t have the final engineering plans, she said.

The board last November selected Florida-based Tocoi Engineering Inc. to handle the design of the facility.

Oliver said the new shelter will be the same size as the existing facility, with the ability for future add-ons such as a cattery, educational room, pole barn, additional kennel. Those add-ons, of course, would depend on funding sources at the time, he said.

County Commission Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. was the most vocal opponent of the agenda item, citing what he believes is an exorbitant cost.

Kitchen Jr.

“We are now at $986,000 for design,” he said. “Let that sink in people: $1 million for a design before the first scoop of dirt is turned.”

Kitchen said “people I’ve talked to” are against spending this kind of money on an animal shelter. He didn’t name those people.

People, he said, are asking why the county isn’t spending that kind of money sheltering veterans or children.

“You don’t spend this much money sheltering people as you do for animals,” Kitchen said of comments he’s hearing.

Commissioner Scott Carnahan said he didn’t have a problem spending $1 million for design but only if it comes from donations – not the general fund.