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Both St. Petersburg charter school applications withdrawn

By Colleen Wright
Both charter school applications submitted to the Pinellas County school district with hopes of opening in 2018 have been withdrawn, according to Rick Wolfe, the district's director of charter school and home education. The last charter school to open in Pinellas County was East Windsor Middle Academy in 2014.

The Pinellas County school district won't open a new charter school anytime soon.

Rick Wolfe, the district's director of charter schools and home education, said the two charter school applications the district received in August to open in 2018 have been withdrawn.

The group behind the application to open St. Petersburg Academy of Math and Science, a sister school to Pinellas Academy of Math and Science charter school in Largo, withdrew its application Monday. The school hoped to enroll 624 students in in its first year as a Kindergarten through eighth grade school.

The district cited numerous weaknesses in its application, including its plan for gifted services, financial management and the oversight of its governing board. District officials expressed doubt at a School Board workshop in October that the application was sufficient enough to go before the board for approval.

Wolfe said the applicant, Charter School Associates, a management company from Coral Springs, planned to resubmit another application by the new deadline of February 1 to be considered for the 2019-20 school year. The Largo school, which opened in 2012, earned a B this year and is in good standing with the district.

Lighthouse Academies, a nonprofit charter chain with 16 schools in three states, withdrew its application to open an elementary school in south St. Petersburg at the end of August. Wolfe said that application had "real glaring concerns."

"They realized at some point in time that they needed a lot of work," he said.

Wolfe said his office has received several calls from those interested in opening a charter school, but no new applications have been submitted. The last charter school to open in the district was East Windsor Middle Academy in 2014, which closed last year.