NEW PORT RICHEY — The Pasco School Board voted last week to approve a plan from Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning to convert Ridgewood High into a technical high school starting with the 2018-19 school year.
Ridgewood has fared poorly in recent years in annual state rankings, with a letter grade of D the past two years. If it were to receive a third straight D for the current school, it could have faced a number of options, including being taken over by the Florida Department of Education or being converted into a charter high school.
In the wake of the School Board decision to close Ridgewood, the school’s principal, Chris Dunning, issued a message in which he urged students and faculty to continue working toward earning a C from the Department of Education for the current school year. Preliminary academic results suggest that goal can be met, according to Dunning.
The School Board voted 4-1 on Nov. 7 to close Ridgewood and replace it with the technical school for the start of the 2018-2019 school year. School Board member Steve Luikhart, a retired former Ridgewood assistant principal, was the lone dissenter.
Ridgewood has 1,041 students. The technical school would have about 600 students who would have to meet admissions requirements. The School District is tentatively planning to transfer the bulk of what would have been the 2018-2019 Ridgewood student body to Fivay High with 613 seats available.
Another factor in the decision to create the technical high school is Ridgewood’s close proximity to the Pasco school district’s Marchman Technical College, at 7825 Campus Drive. Ridgewood and Marchman are separated by the campus of Calusa Elementary School.
About 74 percent of Ridgewood students graduate, according to school district statistics. Nearly eight out of 10 students are considered economically disadvantaged who qualify for free lunches or reduced-price lunches.
The technical school would not have athletics.
Programs at the technical high school might include welding, plumbing, cybersecurity, Java development and programming, neurodiagnostic technology and heavy equipment operation, according to a presentation at the Sept. 5 workshop.
Many details are being worked out, but Cobbe provided a list of other frequently asked questions.
Excerpts from the FAQ sheet include:
• Major advantages of the technical high school program are providing better opportunities for students wishing to enter the workforce right out of school, providing opportunities for students that plan to pursue two-year terminal degrees in technical fields, and providing high rigor advanced coursework for students pursuing a four-year university education.
• Students will earn 32 high school credits, eight more than in a typical high school.
• As for athletic facilities, district officials have had very preliminary discussions with various organizations and county government to make the athletic facilities available for community use. After-school programs and tutoring might be some possible uses. The Boys and Girls Club has expressed a strong interest in working with the school district to provide many services.
• Extracurricular activities will continue at the technical high school, including proms, dances, and clubs such as SkillsUSA, HOSA and Robotics. District leaders plan to move the Ridgewood Navy JROTC unit to Fivay High School, which doesn’t currently have a JROTC unit.