Manatee students go back to class Monday

MANATEE -- After the long summer break, classes resume in Manatee County Schools on Monday.

That comes with a bit of excitement and dread for students, but faculty, who went back to work Aug. 14, are not immune to the anticipation.

"I love the fall because it is a new start. I always look forward to seeing the kids and how much they have changed over the summer," said Sharon Scarbrough, starting her fourth year as principal of Sugg Middle School.

James Horner, starting his first year as principal at Abel Elementary School, said his campus is ready.

"Inside is clean and beautiful," Horner said. "Outside is washed and ready."

One thing school officials really want families to know is that early dismissal on Wednesdays is a thing of the past.

In June, the Manatee School Board voted to end the Wednesday early release after a six-year run.

The early release program had been established to give teachers more time for planning and professional development.

But early release failed to bring enough improved student performance, school officials said, and returned to a five-day traditional class schedule.

For the record, the student day varies by grade level.

Elementary school students start class at 8:30 a.m. They are released at 2:50 p.m.

Middle schoolers begin class at 9:20 a.m. and end at 3:40 p.m.

High school students start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 2:05 p.m.

Projected enrollment this year is 45,507 students, compared to 44,124 last school year. This year's enrollment won't be official until the state authorized count in October, said Mike Barber, spokesman for the Manatee School District.

Another change this year includes adding a sixth grade at Palm View and Tara Elementary schools.

Typically, sixth graders go on to middle school, but now parents have a choice.

"If parents feel like their student is not ready for the middle school level, they can stay at the elementary school another year," Barber said.

Parents might also have siblings at the same school, and can keep them together by choosing the sixth grade option, Barber said.

Also new this year are three charter/alternative schools: Just for Girls Academy, 1011 21st St. E.; Manatee Charter School, 4550 30th St. E.; and Manatee Y Technological High, 922 24th St. E., all in Bradenton.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1.