Community School Convo Continues As Services At Rickards Start To Expand

May 4, 2016

District Superintendent Jackie Pons and City Commissioner Gil Ziffer meet to discuss a proposed community school.
Credit Chris Petley / @LeonSchools

Rickards High School is expanding its services to include a medical center and food pantry, and more programs could be on the way.  A committee led by city Commissioner Gil Ziffer met Wednesday with Leon School Superintendent Jackie Pons.

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Ziffer and Pons have been clashing over a proposed community school with social and medical services for area residents. But Rickards is shaping up to be another possibility. The district is starting a health clinic at the site. The clinic has been in the works for more than two years. Meanwhile, Pons says more programs could be coming.

“Commissioner Ziffer had a great suggestion on the classes we could offer," Pons said after the meeting. "He [Ziffer] thought it would be important if we offered classes programs like financial literacy and GED prep at Rickards so the community could take advantage of that with the full service center there and healthcare there and wraparound services. So it’s very positive to me.”

The community school concept is not off the table. And the superintendent says the conversation has pushed the district to re-evaluate its existing programs. Pons says there’s talk of expanding the existing pre-kindergarten program at Wesson school to include more therapy for students and training for teachers, a similar program is already in place at Hartsfield Elementary School.

Ziffer has pushed for a community school similar to the concept in place at Orlando's Evans High School, for Tallahassee. And he's suggested it be located at the Wesson school. But funding remains a challenge because the state only provides dollars for Pre-K through high school. The idea for the community school would be to serve toddlers through the second or third grade.

Pons says he wants to go to Pensacola to view that city's community elementary school, while the workgroup may head to Orlando's Evans High school, which serves as a community school for its area.