BROOKSVILLE — Under a revised, money-saving plan approved by the Hernando County School Board, the proposed Discovery Academy for middle-schoolers who have fallen behind will be implemented next year at Central High School.
The school board voted this week to merge Discovery Academy with the existing Endeavor Academy for at-risk high school students. School board member John Sweeney did not attend the meeting.
School Superintendent Lori Romano said during a workshop Tuesday that both programs can be run at Central High for about $1.4 million, which is the yearly cost to run Endeavor. Students in the academy programs will be kept apart from one another, Romano said.
Running the Discovery Academy separately would cost nearly $838,000 more per year. Discovery Academy, for students who have been held back two years or more, has a 75-student capacity.
“We don’t have an additional $838,000 (in new funding), but Endeavor has a lot of capacity that we can utilize by combining the programs,” Romano said. “We’ll save money and meet the needs of both student groups. We want Discovery on the Central High School campus, where it will be most effective.”
One cost-saving measure is to have the school resource officer at Central High cover the academies, Romano said.
School board member Cynthia Moore scoffed at that idea, arguing that dealing with behavior issues at Endeavor alone could monopolize an officer’s time.
“We have to think outside the box and think differently to meet the needs that we have,” Romano said. “We had to look at this differently after our initial discussion.”
In Hernando, students retained two years or more struggle most with reading and science classes, and male students are twice as likely to fall behind as female students, Dave Dannemiller, principal at Winding Waters K-8, has told the school board.
“A very important piece is that the parent has to sign an agreement and have responsibility for their child to participate in this program,” Dannemiller said of Discovery Academy on Tuesday.
Parents of Discovery Academy students would be required to meet with their child’s student mentor four times during each academic year to monitor the child’s progress.
The program would be run under the STEAM theme, focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and math. The program could include job-training, community service projects and competitions meant to stimulate creativity.
Although she later voted to implement Discovery Academy in the coming school year, Moore was not completely sold on the plans outlined Tuesday.
“I personally think you’re rushing into it,” she said. “I’ve been at Endeavor when children lose their cool. I just don’t think it’s a good mix” of students.
School board member Dianne Bonfield congratulated Romano, Dannemiller and other staff for finding a way to implement both programs and save money.
“I see a lot of merit to this program,” she said. “We’re going to be able to serve twice as many students utilizing the same staffing and same operating budget. I’d like to see this work.
“I think there’s a great need for these students. These are the kids we always worry about. I think it’s worth a try. I believe it’s going to flourish.”