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An enriching, quality education is the goal of teachers administrators, parents and students in Highlands County. The superintendent of schools reports that over $1 million of the school system budget has been invested in new computer hardware, software and other learning tools in primary and secondary schools. With a ratio of one computer for every six children, an aggressive campaign has successfully ensured that the media center in each school provides supervised Internet access.

As the largest single employer in Highlands County, with salaries commanding slightly less than half of the $97 million budget, the school district’s emphasis on technology has already begun to transform how children are educated for the future.

Every public elementary and secondary school in Highlands County is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Average class size for kindergarten through third grade is just slightly more than 21 students per teacher, increasing to 22 students per teacher from fourth grade and higher.


Throughout the school district, several approaches to instruction are employed, including traditional approach, individualized approach, whole language, cooperative learning, phonics and technology. Curriculum at the elementary level is designed to develop skills in language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, art, physical education and computer literacy. Secondary schools house exceptional media centers, technology laboratories and production studios, and offer foreign language, fine arts and vocational opportunities.

Local schools offer a variety of services aimed at a broad spectrum of users, including:

• Honors Classes, as well as gifted programs for academically talented students.

• Dropout prevention programs at all academic levels, including an alternative school for middle grades.

• Dual Enrollment Classes, so high school students can simultaneously take college level classes at South Florida State College.

• Tech Prep Programs in partnership with South Florida State College, integrating academic and technical curricula which allows students to meet graduation requirements while developing technical skills in specific areas.

• Exceptional Student Education (ESE), for those with special talents or disabilities that require specially designed teaching strategies to meet unique individual needs.

• Pre-Kindergarten Early Intervention Programs contracted through qualified local childcare centers, most of which are accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

• Migrant Early Childhood Programs, which provide pre-school readiness activities for those whose parents are actively working in agriculture.

• An advanced placement program for high school students provides an additional means for outstanding scholars to be considered by a broader spectrum of top colleges and universities.

South Florida State College

South Florida State College

Established by the Florida Legislature in 1965, South Florida State College (SFSC) is one of 28 colleges in the Florida College System. Considered one of the most comprehensive colleges in Florida, SFSC’s primary focus is to provide open access to high-quality academic programs leading to college transfer, career and workforce training and adult basic education. SFSC awards a bachelor of applied sciences degree in supervision and management (BAS-SM), associate in arts (A.A.) degrees, associate in science (A.S.) degrees, associate in applied science (A.A.S.) degrees, applied technology diplomas (A.T.D.), college credit certificates (C.C.C.), and occupational certificates (O.C.). The SFSC University Center provides six baccalaureate programs and one master’s degree program in partnership with four-year public and private universities on the SFSC Highlands Campus. Currently under consideration are baccalaureate programs in nursing and elementary education. Through its Adult Education Department, the college offers adult education classes, adult basic education, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and the General Educational Development (GED) program.

With an emphasis on student learning and promoting student success, the college served 6,306 students (unduplicated count), earned 2,416 full-time enrollment (FTE), and awarded 675 certificates, diplomas and degrees during the 2011-12 reporting year.

The Highlands Campus, which lies within the borders of the city of Avon Park, is often called the most beautiful campus in Florida for its serene park-like atmosphere, trim lawns, cool fountains and meandering walkways. It sits on a 228-acre isthmus in Florida’s Heartland, south of downtown Avon Park and north of Sebring. The Highlands Campus consists of 53 buildings, including the 1,460-seat SFSC Theatre for the Performing Arts and 1,500-seat Panther Gym.

Corporate and Community Education

The department offers corporate and workforce training through workshops and seminars on a variety of topics and can develop training programs tailored to the needs of a business and its employees.

SFSC offers community education courses to people of all ages who want to expand their horizons or improve their health and fitness. Popular classes are aerobics, aquabics, computer use and software, language classes and digital photography. Each summer, the department offers Camp Adventure for children ages 6-12.

Cultural Programs

SFSC serves as a cultural focal point, providing quality entertainment to Florida’s Heartland since 1984. The six-performance series offered are the Artist, Matinee, Jazz, Kaleidoscope, Summer and Young People’s Theatre. Performances are held on the Highlands Campus in the SFSC Theatre for the Performing Arts and the 245-seat SFSC University Center Auditorium.

The Museum of Florida Art and Culture (MOFAC) is housed on SFSC’s Highlands Campus and maintains the Florida Masters Collection, one of the finest collections of Florida regional art. Permanent exhibitions also include the Highwaymen, the Cracker Cowboy Collection, and the history and archaeology of Florida.

The Wildflower Wayside Shrine Trail is an ongoing exhibition, overseen by MOFAC, in which science, art and the natural world come together. This self-guided walking trail explores pristine scrubland on the SFSC Highlands Campus and contains six shrine boxes created by artist Mollie Doctrow to honor the endangered plant species found on the Lake Wales Ridge, the oldest ecosystem in the southeastern United States. This project was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Students and county residents can enjoy intercollegiate athletics throughout the academic year. The Lady Panthers Volleyball team plays matches August through November. The Panther Baseball and Lady Panther Softball teams play games January through April. Each summer, the Athletic Department offers youth sports camps in volleyball, baseball and softball.


SFSC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the associate and baccalaureate degree.

To learn more about SFSC programs and events, visit, follow on Twitter at!/SFSCpanthers, or like the college on Facebook at

The SFSC Highlands Campus is located at 600 West College Drive, Avon Park, FL 33825; (863)453-6661. The Lake Placid Center is at 500 East Interlake Boulevard, Lake Placid, FL 33852; (863)465-3003. The Hardee Campus is at 2968 U.S. 17, Bowling Green, FL 33834; (863)773-3081. The DeSoto Campus is at 2251 N.E. Turner Avenue, Arcadia, FL 34266; (863) 993-1757.

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