Janssen proposes another fundamental school
Pinellas County may get another fundamental school.
At today's school board workshop, Superintendent Julie Janssen proposed that Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater, which closed at the end of 2009, reopen next fall as a 500-seat fundamental school. She said it would help reduce the long waiting lists at Curtis Fundamental in Dunedin and Tarpon Springs Fundamental.
"That would relieve some of the pressure," she said.
The proposal garnered little comment during the workshop from board members, who were focused on the Palm Harbor IB and Lakeview/Gulfport questions. But after the meeting, board members Peggy O'Shea and Carol Cook offered a mixed reaction.
"It's an idea that could work," said O'Shea, who liked its proximity to the predominantly black Greenwood section of Clearwater. "It would offer options in an area that doesn't have many."
Cook said she was under the impression that the proposal was to re-open Kings Highway in fall 2012. She said the idea had merit, but wanted to know more details about both its cost and impact on other schools.
"We closed (Kings Highway) for financial reasons," she said. "I don't want to open another facility if financially it's not going to be worthwhile, or if it impacts populations in other schools."
Janssen told The Gradebook that the proposal "kind of got glazed over" because of the other issues and promised to bring it back before the board later. For now, she said, she would include it in the student assignment/achievement plan that will go before the board for a first reading on Nov. 9.
The district looked at one or two other closed schools in north county for a possible conversion, but Kings Highway was the best option given its size, location and potential start-up costs, Janssen said. She said existing schools in north Pinellas were not considered because the district did not want to displace students.
Janssen also said that since Kings Highway closed, circumstances had changed enough to consider a re-opening. Demand for fundamental schools has grown, and the school board is now more open to expanding fundamental seats.
"For a while they were tenuous about it," she said. "We heard loud and clear, 'We need those seats.' "
Besides re-opening Kings Highway, Janssen has proposed the creation of fundamental schools-within-a-school at Boca Ciega and Dunedin high schools, and the conversion of Gulfport Elementary into a fundamental after it absorbs a much smaller Lakeview Fundamental.