Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pasco County School Board prepares for vote on Ridgewood High transformation

With a vote scheduled for Tuesday morning, the Pasco County school district has begun seeking community input on a proposal to convert Ridgewood High School into a magnet technical school.

Parents and students have received a survey asking them about their interest in the possibilities a technical school would offer, including high-tech career-oriented programs, added graduation credits and athletics.

Nearly 600 people — mostly parents — responded by Monday morning, with views generally positive about the option for western Pasco County. Just under three quarters of the respondents said they were interested in a school "that offers industry certification that can lead to a well-paying job right out of high school."

Even more — 84 percent — said they were interested in a school that provides students "the opportunity to learn a trade while also taking challenging courses like Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, and Honors, which can earn college credits and may lead to a tuition-free Associates degree while still in high school."

Academic programs generating the most positive input were robotics, computer systems and biomedical.

RELATED: With a focus on careers and 'sneaky academics,' technical high schools are on the rise

The one downside of the proposal came regarding sports. The district proposal leans toward not offering athletics, in part because of the smaller size of the school. In the survey, though, 59 percent indicated a desire to have sports offered.

Superintendent Kurt Browning and his staff are recommending these changes to Ridgewood in order to provide more academic options for students who might not be college bound. At the same time, he wants to move quickly because the school is under the gun from state turnaround mandates after having received two consecutive D grades.

Board members have expressed some apprehension at being asked to make a decision while they have unanswered questions. They said they like the concept, but worry about how current Ridgewood students will be treated, in addition to how a new magnet school would succeed on relatively short notice.

"I think the urgency is there," board member Colleen Beaudoin said. "I'm grappling with it."

The board is scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday to discuss and vote on the superintendent's recommendation.

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