Barracuda Playground opens … and more School News!

compiled by Lauren Salinero

Sunset Park Elementary

Sunset Park Elementary student Kevin Wei displays his winning artwork at the American Kennel Club Championship Dog Show.

Windermere resident Kevin Wei of Sunset Park Elementary won first place at the 2017 American Kennel Club Art Contest in the kindergarten-fifth-grade division. Winners were determined from the following grade divisions: kindergarten-fifth, sixth-eighth and ninth-12; and the theme of the contest was “Puppies.” In addition, students Nandini Muvva and Ava Parrulli were finalists. The top winner in each division received a ribbon and $50 Amazon gift card, and the students’ artwork was displayed at the AKC Championship Dog Show.

Thornebrooke Elementary

The new Barracuda Playground at Thornebrooke Elementary officially opens.

Representatives of Thornebrooke Elementary announced the opening of the Barracuda Playground. The structure, made of more than 32,000 recycled plastic containers, preserves the “green” school goal of considering both the community and environment as it grows. The PTO, families and community members worked hard to raise funds for the project throughout the course of a full school year.

Windermere High

Southwest resident and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and District 1 Commissioner Betsey VanderLey will co-host a grand opening of the Deputy Scott Pine Community Park, at which one of the fields will be used by Windermere High. The other field will be multipurpose for recreational use. The event will take place Feb. 10 at 10 a.m. The park is located at 6865 Ficquette Road in Windermere. For more information, visit

Et Al

The SafeWalk Committee, including representatives from Orange County Public Schools’ departments of safety and emergency management, facilities services and transportation services, delivered a presentation to the school board during one of its work sessions on the SafeWalk Program. The goal of the program is to coordinate safe walking for students and assisting with traffic management or safety issues impacting schools. It provides tools and assistance to schools, parents and agency partners to address various pedestrian and traffic safety issues, including a review of hazardous conditions, safe walk criteria and infrastructure needs. It also works with local crossing-guard coordinating agencies to identify and resolve gaps.

As part of a weeklong study unit on “Our Community,“ Premier Academy students (l. to r.) Harper Kassel, Kylie-Marie Kunkel and Rebekka Napartovich build their own community scenes.

The Florida Department of Education released its 2016-17 graduation rates for the state, school districts and high schools. Orange County Public Schools reached a new district record high and had 17 traditional high schools with graduation rates above 90 percent. OCPS now outperforms the state by 2.4 percentage points, expanding this advantage by almost 2 percentage points in the 2016-17 school year. The graduation rates of OCPS’s traditional high schools and the overall district increased by 1.6 and 3.4 percentage points for a 93.8 and 84.7, respectively.

Natalia Jimenez’s 3-year-olds class at Christ The King Lutheran PreSchool creates snowballs from large cotton balls for their Christmas celebration.

Christ The King Lutheran PreSchool’s VPK and 3-year-olds perform in the annual Christmas program.

Christ The King Lutheran PreSchool spent the holiday season busy with projects, performances and other special activities. The annual Christmas program was called Hide and Seek. Sofia Vera played the part of Mary, and Zain Amer played Joseph in the telling of the traditional Christmas story. The 2-year-olds class welcomed parents to join their Christmas party, as it decorated upside-down ice cream cones with frosting and sprinkles to create Christmas trees. During Natalia Jimenez’s 3-year-olds class Christmas celebration, the children wanted to include winter activities. They made snowballs out of large cotton balls and played games trying to throw their snowballs into buckets for a snowball toss.

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