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Education

Pinellas Teachers Make Back-To-School House Calls

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M.S. Butler
Staff and teachers from Clearwater Intermediate Middle School fill the bus for a day of going out into the community welcoming students back to school

At the beginning of each school year, making new students feel welcome and building a rapport with them is a big part of getting off to a smooth start. And at one Pinellas County middle school, teachers and staff aren't waiting for the students to come to them.

It's no secret that not every student is excited about going back to school at the end of summer.

On the first day of school some will be waiting at the bus stop with a backpack of new notebooks and a stomach full of butterflies.

So instead of waiting for students to have that anxious first day at school the teachers and staff of Clearwater Intermediate Middle School go to them.

The plan came from Principal Phil Wirth.

"I actually read it online, believe it or not," Wirth said.  "I read different journals and this was an idea of building parent connection with the school and I just thought it was a great idea."

So off they go into the community.

Jennifer Harding is an English teacher starting her ninth year at the school.

"Today we are on the bus and we are heading out to some of the neighborhoods that our students are coming from in order to greet them and say welcome to our school," Harding said.

This is the second year they've gone out to welcome students days ahead of the start of classes.

Even though they sent out calls to families Principal Wirth leads as teachers, staff and yes a couple of reporters descend on the front doors of mostly unsuspecting homes.

Most, like Joann Brady, whose 12-year-old foster daughter goes to Clearwater Intermediate take it with good humor.

"I was totally taken off guard," Brady said.

Isaiah Gillespie is twelve and starting seventh grade this year. He seemed a little more confused than most.

"It's very surprising," Gillespie said. "Just, like, somebody coming to your front door like trick or treaters --just asking for candy."

In the end Isaiah, like everyone who got a visit, watched with a smile as the group walked away.

 And it's going well enough where Principal Wirth plans to keep the bus rolling next year.

"Yes sir. Yes sir," Wirth said.  "We will continue, we will fine tune it but yes it is definitely a success. We will continue."

But first it's time for this new school year.