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Parents see many positives in new elementary

Hammond Elementary, projected to draw 688 students, will ease crowding at three schools.

By AMBER MOBLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published August 19, 2007


ODESSA - Despite prior public concerns over traffic congestion and student displacement, parents attending an open House Friday at Hammond Elementary sounded generally optimistic about the new school.

Sharing a campus with Walker Middle School off Gunn Highway on N Mobley Road in the county's northwest, Hammond is projected to draw 688 students from three crowded neighboring elementary schools - Citrus Park, Schwarzkopf and McKitrick.

During planning stages for Hammond, parents voiced concern about congestion from adjacent Walker.

But parent Lynn Palles liked what she saw.

"The teachers are nice and very pumped up," she said.

Palles also found comfort in the fact that the two schools' start times are an hour apart.

"It's going to be a little hairy the first couple of times," she said of pickups and dropoffs, "but they seem very organized."

Buses will line up along the building's back, and parent traffic will be confined to the front, said principal Karen Zielinski. And staff members and fifth-grade safety patrol officers will help with directing parents and students.

With 688 students, the building will open Monday at 71 percent capacity, a fact that thrilled parent Larry Franks. "And there are no portables," he said. "That's the most important thing."

Even after the shift of students to Hammond, Citrus Park, which made a B on the 2007 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, is projected to be at 105 percent of capacity. McKitrick and Schwarzkopf are at 107 percent and 129 percent, respectively. Both are A schools.

Before the school's open house on Friday, Zielinski said enrollment was at 617.

More students are expected.

The switch from Citrus Park to Hammond means positive changes for the Hill family. Instead of a 30-minute morning commute, Luke and Jaime Hill will only need about 10 minutes to drop off their kindergartener and fifth-grader.

"And if they ride the bus in the morning, they can sleep a little later," said Hill.

Still, those first days at the new school will likely bring some less tangible stresses, as one parent observed.

The switch from Schwarzkopf to Hammond will be a tough transition for 10-year-old Whitney Burnell, said her mom, Stacy Burnell. Most of the fifth-grader's good friends are still at Schwarzkopf.

Palles' fifth-grader daughter Marisa Palles was eagerly anticipating the change from Northwest Elementary, where she had been attending on special assignment. She especially looked forward to going to a new school.

"We'll have brand new books, and they'll be no gum under the desks." Marisa said.

Amber Mobley can be reached at or 813 269-5311.

[Last modified August 19, 2007, 01:32:18]

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