LAKELAND, Fla. — The Principal of Griffin Elementary School in Lakeland is getting creative, doing what she can to boost student’s performance. 

  • Principal Melissa Durrance created a new theme for her school
  • Durrance wants to reduce suspensions, encourage students to communicate and have fun
  • Teachers will also undergo professional devolopment 

The school is a turnaround school, which could close if its school grade doesn’t improve after this upcoming school year.

Principal Melissa Durrance hopes a new sensory path will be a game changer. The path has shapes, numbers, and letters painted on the hallway floor. It also encourages students to jump and take baby steps as they navigate down the path which stretches almost the length of a football field. 

“We’re completely trying to do away with suspensions, so we’ve created an Eagles nest, which is like a “time-in room,” and this sensory path too that will help hopefully get the kids to switch gears before they escalate the problem to where it’s something they might be suspended for,” Durrance said.

Durrance said when students are having issues, whether it’s at open or in class, they shut down and act out or leave class. She hopes that by allowing them to have fun and do the sensory path, it will help them relax and talk about the issues they’re having so they can be resolved before the situation escalates. 

Reducing suspensions along with absenteeism are some of the strategies Durrance hopes will help elevate the school’s grade. Durrance said 20 percent of her students miss 18 or more days of school, adding that when they’re not in school, they’re not learning.

“We need to make sure that we raise student achievement to where we earn a C or higher on the state report card. If we don’t achieve that this year, there’s only two options left for Griffin, and that’s either to close the school or make it a charter,” Durrance said, describing the high stakes of this upcoming school year. 

Along with addressing behavioral issues, Durrance said the sensory path, designed by former art teacher Suggey Ortiz, has lessons entangled in it. 

“It will help teach the ABCs, and 123s and planets and shapes,” Durrance explained. “So I’m hoping by adding a little fun and personalizing it to the students, they will want to come to school and see what griffin has next.” 

Teachers will also undergo more professional development to make sure they understand the standards and are equipped to teach them effectively.