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Now that school’s out, Citrus County School District leaders are focused on helping students bounce back from the effects of COVID-19 and moving forward with preparations for the next school year.

School district expands summer school reach

According to Superintendent Sandra “Sam” Himmel, brick-and-mortar summer school will commence as usual this year. Although primarily face-to-face, students will be offered an online option.

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School district leaders have also expanded the reach of their summer school program, which will be available for all grade levels to assist with the COVID-19 fallout. They anticipate providing this kind of extra support to students for the next few years.

Their hope for the summer is to focus on credit recovery and keeping students on track to graduate, even if they failed a course during the 2020-21 school year.

District administrators estimate 300 high school, 250 middle school and 400 elementary school students will be enrolled in summer school this year.

The school district will also continue their summer feeding program and offer transportation for those attending in-person summer school.

District leaders talk 2021-2022 school year

The school board will meet Monday, June 14, to vote on the elimination of COVID-19 safety precautions. District leaders anticipate masks will likely be optional for the upcoming school year.

However, Assistant Superintendent Jonny Bishop said the district will cooperate with the Florida Department of Health should guidelines change.

In August, the district still plans to offer Citrus eSchool. So far, administrators said 426 students are enrolled, but they are expecting numbers to rise to roughly 450.

For the 2021-22 school year, the district will officially begin implementing the new B.E.S.T (Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking) standards. The new curriculum will replace Common Core, but the upcoming school year will be a transition year.

Chief Academic Officer Scott Hebert said he anticipates somewhat of a difficult transition for teachers. During the 2021-22 school year, teachers will be responsible for teaching the new standards, while preparing students for end-of-year assessments, based on the old Common Core standards.

However, Hebert said there are no major changes in the new curriculum.

“We focus on what the standards are,” he said.    

New additions to Citrus Schools

The school district was given an additional $7 million from CARES Act COVID-19 relief funds, which will cover their budget for the next few years, according to Himmel.

District leaders plan to focus on mental health support for students affected by COVID-19. Currently, the district is advertising positions for one behavioral specialist per school.

Funding is also in place for a new air conditioning unit for Lecanto High School’s Curtis Peterson Auditorium, totaling less than $300,000.

So far, administration said all district leadership positions are filled with the exception of a Hernando Elementary School assistant principal. Bishop said the district is always in need of bus drivers and are looking to fill positions for 55 class aids.

Currently, 59 teaching positions are open within the district. According to Bishop, the number has been in the 90s in the past.

“We feel good about that,” he said.

Hannah Sachewicz is a reporter for the Chronicle. She can be reached at 352-564-2929 or hannah.sachewicz@chronicleonline.com.

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