Parents nervous as Cocoa High adds middle-schoolers

Budget cuts closed Clearlake Middle, forcing students to share high school

COCOA, Fla. - Budget cuts in Brevard County have forced some seventh and eighth grade students to enroll at Cocoa High School, and some parents worry the age-gap is inappropriate.

Leonita Lott dropped off her 12-year-old, who was supposed to attend Clearlake Middle, at Cocoa High Wednesday.

"I have mixed feelings, but I am nervous right now," said Lott.

Some parents worry having young adults, some as old as 18, share the campus with 12-year-olds may at times negatively influence them. Parents and students are also concerned about overcrowding.

"I think it's gonna be really crowded because it's a lot more kids," said senior Silvester Walker.

Michelle Irwin, Brevard County Schools spokeswoman, says the district moved about 500 students from Clearlake Middle to Cocoa High. Now the total enrollment is about 1400, 36-percent more than last year.

Irwin said the school has added staff members exclusively to serve the needs of the middle-school aged students. They'll spend instructional time mainly apart from older students and have separate lunches. Irwin points out there are other junior-senior high schools in the county and state.

In addition to Clearlake, Gardendale and South Lake elementary schools also closed at the end of last school year. Parents lost a bitter battle with district officials after several protests and a failed tax initiative.

The school district says the $25-million budget cut also forced the county to eliminate 400 staff positions, the majority of those teachers. But Irwin said 16 of about 30 teachers eliminated from Clearlake Middle were hired at Cocoa High.

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