Seminole Co. students head back to school amid district changes

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. —

Seminole County students went back to school on Monday, and the first day looked very different from past years.

The district is getting creative, and in spite of a $16 million shortfall, WFTV's Racquel Asa found out why it is making the average school day longer.

Monday was also a first for new Superintendent Walt Griffin.

In his first year, the district has given students the ability to add 40 minutes to their day so they can take a class that wouldn't normally fit in a seven-hour day. Students can also choose to start the day later if they end later.

"We need to be flexible, and we need to be competitive. For the first time in our history, we have to ramp up service," said Griffin.

Since teachers will stagger their hours just like students, it won't cost the district more money.

On top of longer classroom hours, the computer labs will stay open two hours after classes end. The idea is make them more accessible to students who want to take online classes.

The district gets $6,200 per student. The district is currently short $16 million with rising costs and declining enrollment. It's forced the district to look at rezoning all its schools for next year.

"You know, I have to tell you I would be upset if my child couldn't go to her wonderful school, but I realize it's a necessary evil," said parent Christine Wydra.

The district will also ask voters to approve a school tax increase in November. It could be as much as $130 on a home valued at $150,000.