AME refuels, finds FOCUS for new school year

Anna Maria Elementary School classes begin Aug. 20 with fewer students for the 2012-13 school year and some changes in schedules — including the elimination of early release Wednesdays.

        The school year also brings new teachers and new online information.

        Manatee County School District community and press relations specialist Mike Barber said last week the district is projecting 287 AME students this year, down from 295 last year.

        “It’s important that they’re considered projected, because the state uses the numbers in funding,” he said.

        AME principal David Marshall said enrollment is typically in flux for the first several weeks. Ten days after the first day of school, a count is recorded, Barber said, adding that final enrollment numbers won’t be known until October.

        “Enrollment is down a little bit,” Marshal said, adding, “it’s all about Choice. The Choice numbers are dwindling.” The Choice program allows families to choose to send students from other elementary schools to AME. “If parents don’t want to drive across the bridge or what, I’m not sure,” he added.

        The number of classes for each grade depends on class size, Marshall said. And because final enrollment numbers are not yet in, the district can still make adjustments, he added.

        The state mandates no more than 18 students in pre-kindergarten through third-grade classes and, for fourth- and fifth-grade, 22 students or less, he said.

        Discontinued by the school board for 2012-13 is the districtwide early release Wednesdays. For the past five years, the school day had ended at 1:15 p.m. for elementary school students to allow for professional development.

        It was eliminated on the recommendation of school district superintendent Tim McGonegal, Marshall said. Phone surveys of parents had indicated dissatisfaction with early release.

        “The school board decided there wasn’t enough support for it,” said Barber.

        The board also considered school grades and Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test results and determined “it didn’t warrant having the shortened day,” he said.

        Students will be returning to AME with an 8:30 a.m.-2:50 p.m. Monday through Friday school week.

        New teachers at AME include Kathy Houston in the school’s Various Exceptionalities Program and Nick Leduc in a fourth-grade class. Both are coming to AME from other district schools, according to Marshall.

        Two buses will continue to serve the school, Marshall said, adding that the bus schedule will be ready about one week before school starts.

        Barber reported on a new online portal called FOCUS that is designed to track students’ progress. It should be accessible to elementary school parents sometime during the first semester.

        The FOCUS portal, which already is available for middle and high schools, will be introduced to elementary schools by their principals.

Call center ready for questions

        Information phone lines already are available to help parents and others with back-to-school questions.

        The School Board of Manatee County opened the call center Aug. 7 to provide information on registration, school zones, bus stop locations and times and home education, and to field other inquiries common at the beginning of a new school year.

        The phone number for general information is 941-708-4971, while the number for transportation is 941-782-1287.

        The general phone line will operate 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Aug. 7-23.

        The transportation phone line will operate 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Aug. 7-17, and from 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Aug. 20-22.

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