ODESSA, Fla. — Kids showing up to Starkey K-8 will call this place home for years to come. Everything is new here from the classrooms to the playground. Even the basketball hoop was still wrapped in plastic.
“I can’t count the number of kids today that said I can’t wait for school to start. And that’s what we want. We want them excited to be here," said Brittany Flood, who heads up the school's magnet program.
Starkey Ranch K-8 is Pasco’s first K-8. Principal Courtney Gantt says it’s a growing trend around the country.
“Now when we look at the adolescent brain and how they develop we can really see that keeping them in a family environment K to 8 really helps them learn and grow and really makes that social-emotional piece really strong for them," said Gantt.
Some parents might be concerned about the drastic age difference between students in a K-8.
But Gantt says they won’t put youngsters with older kids together in the cafeteria or in electives.
And elementary-age kids are escorted through the halls.
“We always tell families that the people that are going to be kindest to our kindergartners are going to be our middle schoolers. It might be their upper elementary siblings that might be unkind. We are really going to be teaching everyone on this campus about collective responsibility for our students," said Gantt.
Starkey K-8 is also Pasco’s first magnet school with three different pathways. They are fine arts, world languages, and computer science.
Students can explore all three in elementary school then specialize in one for middle school.
“It does really cool amazing things in your brain when you start to learn things that you don’t otherwise learn. Kindergartners don’t normally take Spanish. Kindergartners don’t normally sit in a class where they get to code. But that’s what we are doing," said Flood.
And one feature at this school that also benefits the community is the theatre, library, and cultural center that will be shared by the school and the general public.
Pasco School officials say they have another K-8 school planned in the Dade City area.
And they also will look at adding even more in the years to come.