Central Fla. students head back to school

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - More than 400,000 students headed back to school across central Florida Monday morning, and the first day of class has brought changes for some districts.

Voters in Orange County must decide if they want to continue paying an extra half-penny sales tax to build and renovate schools.

School officials said they hope that's how voter sentiment falls when they go to the polls as another year begins.

In Orange County, children in 11 different schools are walking into a complete remodel. It's a trend school officials said will continue if a half-penny sales tax continues to supplement their budget.

"It means about 40 more schools will get renovated. It will mean that we'll have upgrades technology in our schools," said Scott Howat of Orange County schools.

On Friday, parents waited for appointments inside school district headquarters to enroll their children.

There were plenty of reasons for kids to switch schools throughout the year. In some cases, it's because families without a home are still trying to give their kids some stability.

"Yes, there are families that are out there struggling, but we want to make sure the one constant is the schools," said Howat.

Meanwhile, as Osceola County High School students return to class Monday, they will see a new class schedule.

The school board said it will accommodate state testing changes.

Students are looking at a new seven-period schedule where they'll study six subjects all year instead of four per semester.

But, that's just one of several new changes in store this year for the Osceola County School District.

Osceola County schools will offer a new online parent portal designed to enhance parents' involvement in their child's education and communicate better with teachers.

Osceola Schools Superintendent Melba Luciano said, "Parents usually go into that portal and on a daily basis, look up whether there's homework, how their children are doing, where they're grading. And, as you go up in high school, those parents want to make sure those children are on course for graduation."

Luciano said the county is also broadening its resources for adult learners with the arrival of two new education centers in St. Cloud and Poinciana.

"We're going to be offering courses on GED, ESAU, CNA LPN, etc., so that they can actually be in their own neighborhood and go into careers that are available within their own community," said Luciano.

Both centers join Kissimmee's current branch on Simpson Road, improving the options and commute for older learners.

"There were individuals that were taking a bus, and it would take them two hours to get here, and now, it's just around the corner," said Luciano.

There are still a few openings for teachers around the district on all levels, as well as a need of volunteers in tutoring and mentoring from the classroom to clerical work.

Seminole County students went back to school last week.