School kicks off Aug. 10 for Marion County students

Susan Molander, who was the College Park Elementary School Teacher of the Year in 2022, lays out books on her students’ desks in her classroom at College Park Elementary School in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, August 8, 2023. Molander will be teaching all subjects, including math, english, social studies and science to her 4th grade students when school starts on Thursday. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

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Posted August 9, 2023 | Kevin Christian, APR, CPRC, Director of Public Relations for MCPS - Photos by Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

Aug. 10 marks the first day of school for what could be the biggest enrollment year for Marion County Public Schools in its 154-year history.

A projected 44,487 students are expected to start and further their educations in MCPS classrooms this year, the highest projection ever. The student breakdown includes 20,620 elementary, 10,221 middle, 13,225 high, and 421 in special learning centers.

Bus transportation is always a major challenge for a school district geographically larger than the state of Rhode Island. MCPS offers 254 bus routes on opening day, 16 more than last year including 132 for students with special needs. About 34,000 students are eligible to ride the bus with an average daily ridership around 22,500.

Brand new teachers have been on the job since their “Great Beginnings” workshops kicked off July 31. Returning teachers came back to campus August 2 for professional learning opportunities.

As of Aug. 9, 302 new teachers are putting finishing touches on their classrooms with an overall district-wide teaching force of about 2,800 professionals. The district’s 6,100+ employees are 50% instructional, 46% support, and 4% administrative.

Academically, this school year launches a new aviation program at Sparr Elementary School. Nearby Reddick-Collier Elementary School starts its own equine industry program (which leads to a complementary first-of-its-kind program at nearby North Marion High) while Lake Weir High School offers the International Cambridge Program for the first time.

With more than 7.1 million square feet of space to manage, custodial crews have waxed floors, cleaned classrooms, and readied restrooms for the first day of school. Technical crews installed new flooring, replaced roofing surfaces, cleaned and inspected over 3,800 air conditioners and 37 generators to ensure they’re all running smoothly to cool things off given the current heatwave.

Food service workers at 55 district schools stand ready to serve free breakfast and lunch to every student who wants food, regardless of income, thanks to the Community Eligibility Provision from the US Department of Agriculture.

Four schools have different principals including two with first-time principals: Donald Manning at Reddick-Collier Elementary and Reuben Williams at Liberty Middle. Schools with different principals include Fessenden Elementary (Stacie Newmones) and Horizon Academy at Marion Oaks (Melissa Conner).

School bell times remain virtually the same as last year with a few exceptions:

  • East Marion Elementary (7:50 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
  • Emerald Shores Elementary (7:45 a.m. – 2:55 p.m.)
  • Dunnellon Middle (9:10 a.m. – 3:50 p.m.)
  • Lake Weir Middle (8:35 a.m. – 3:05 p.m.)
  • Belleview High (9 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.)
  • Marion Technical Institute (7:45 a.m. – 2:15 p.m.)

MCPS will emphasize daily attendance at school this year with a special attendance campaign kicking off in September. “Showing Up Together!” will educate students, families, and the community about the importance of being on time, every day, so students maximize their learning. Every minute matters now more than ever.

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