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Sunlake High to offer 4 career clusters

The school will have Advanced Placement courses and career and technical education.

By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published January 31, 2007


LAND O'LAKES - Close to 400 teenagers and parents filled the Land O'Lakes High School gym with one thing in mind: the kickoff of Sunlake High School.

And, no, they weren't there to talk about the attendance boundaries.

Sure, some lingering bitterness bubbled through, like the girl who angrily asked why the school bus that will pick up her 12th-grader neighbors won't take her, an underclassman, to Land O'Lakes High, too.

For the most part, though, the crowd came seeking answers about what Sunlake will be like when it opens in August.

"I'm trying to make sure I'm in the loop early," said Victor Franklin, whose daughter, Cree, and son, Corey, will attend Sunlake. "I'm here to volunteer up front."

Principal Angie Stone - so far the school's only employee - said she was pleased to see such a strong turnout, especially of kids, for the organizational meeting. It gave some hope that the school will have its own brand of spirit, even on its first day of classes.

Stone came armed with pictures, to give everyone a sense of how Sunlake will look. She marveled over the tree-lined view out a classroom window, commenting, "I've been in Pasco County for 13 years, and I've never had a window. Our classrooms will have windows."

She drew an inadvertent laugh when showing the "typical classroom" of concrete block walls and concrete floor, nothing else. "Remember, we're under construction," Stone said, smiling.

Stone answered questions she figured would arise. Many revolved around sports, a key concern among families that had reservations about being zoned into Sunlake.

"We will have athletics and, I hope, good athletics. I like to go to them," she said.

More specifically, Stone said, yes, there will be a football field, and the team will play in District 3A-8. The schedule is set and will be published on the school Web site, SLHS.pasco.k12.fl.us, some time this week. It will have swimming, cross country and all the other teams the students can muster.

The school colors will be black, gold and teal. Students will choose the mascot.

"I started with a big pink flamingo over here, but then I thought you wouldn't appreciate that," Stone said. "That was a rumor someone started. It was not me."

The initial choices were Spartans, Yellow Jackets, Hornets, Falcons, Hawks and Ravens.

She spoke at length about the academics, the other major issue for parents.

Yes, the school will offer Advanced Placement courses. It will offer career and technical education, dual enrollment and special education in addition to the general curriculum. Students will be organized into smaller learning communities based on four career clusters: arts and communication; health and human services; business, finance and marketing; and science, engineering and technology.

After talking about all these things, Stone opened the floor to questions.

Several parents wanted to know about languages that will be offered, so their children can complete the two-year graduation requirement. Stone said German isn't likely, but American Sign Language, Spanish and French are.

Students asked about whether the school will have driver's education yes, parking (plenty) and an agriculture program (no).

Will there be a traffic light where the school entrance connects to State Road 54? Maybe. Will the school have a six-period day or some other schedule? Different configurations are under consideration.

If students want to remain at Land O'Lakes for course offerings or other reasons, they can apply for school choice, assistant superintendent Jack Davis said. The district will accept applications beginning Thursday through March 1.

Peter Keel said he looked forward to sending his daughter, Adrienne, to Sunlake, not the least reason being that the school won't be so crowded. Adrienne, sitting beside her dad, said some of her courses at Land O'Lakes have 30 or more students.

"My expectations will be high," Keel said, "because I was really happy with what we had here."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com (813) 909-4614 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505 ext. 4614.