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Chiefland joins middle, high schools

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Principal lays out plans for the year

By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

When the school year begins Aug. 19, there will no longer be a Chiefland High School and a separate Chiefland Middle School. 

On that day, the new Chiefland Middle/High School will open its doors to more than 800 students with Principal Matt McLelland at the helm of the newly combined schools. He said there will be about 60 teachers and 30 staff members in the new operation. 

And the classes will stay in two separate buildings. 

The message he is sending parents: Do not worry about the new arrangement. Plans have been made that will benefit students.

Middle school students will be able to access the resources the high school has to offer in coursework, like math, engineering and agriculture. “There will be extra things for them,” McLelland said. “We are going to offer them agricultural biotechnology and we're putting in a high tech biology lab. They are going to be extracting DNA.”

McLelland is also squelching rumors like the one that there will no longer be middle school sports. 

“That's not going to change,” he told the Chiefland Rotary Club on July 10. The varsity football coach is not interested in playing middle school or junior varsity players at the varsity level. McLelland said there will be middle school, junior varsity and varsity sports.  

Of course he has also encounters a parent's worst fear — “I don't want my baby up there with those mean high schoolers.”

“They won't see each other,” McLelland said. Classes will be kept separate. He said plans for the middle school call for the 6th grade students assigned to their own wing without any contact with the 7th and 8th grade students. 

“That way the 6th graders get to be children a little longer,” McLelland said. He said the classes will also have different dining times, ensuring the younger students get to be themselves. 

McLelland said there will always be a male on duty in each school building as former football coach Tim O'Neill will be joining the administrative staff as a dean. 

McLelland said he is bringing one tradition over from the high school — the annual freshman invasion program which helps students and parents to make the transition, but it will be the “6th Grade Invasion.”  He said it will be similar with the goal of easing the transition from elementary school. 

This plan also means the high school will not be slacking in its efforts. McLelland noted that the high school has a 70 percent passing rate in its advanced placement courses, while the state average is around 30-35 percent.

When it comes to college “these kids are getting a quicker jump on that,” he said. There is also dual enrollment with many high school graduates earning college credits and associate degrees at the College of Central Florida's Levy Center across the street.  

“We have been separate,” McLelland said. “But come Aug. 19 it will be one school under the blue and gold.”