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Pinellas school closure list narrowed



Pinellas school administrators have narrowed the list of proposed school closings to five, part of an effort to deal with declining enrollment.

In a proposal sent Tuesday to the School Board, superintendent Clayton Wilcox recommends closing Clearview Avenue, Largo Central and South Ward elementaries, and two St. Petersburg middle schools -- Riviera and Southside Fundamental. The closings would take effect in the 2008-09 school year.

The closing of Southside, one of the district’s oldest and highest performing schools, is part of a significant change in the district's lineup of fundamental programs.

Southside students would be moved to nearby Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle, a four-year-old school with space to grow. Its upper level has never been completed but is now on a list of major improvements to be completed over the next year.

Wilcox also proposes turning Coachman Fundamental Middle in Clearwater into a large fundamental elementary school and moving the middle school to Kennedy Middle in Clearwater.

He also proposes that three elementaries -- Skyview, Fuguitt and Mount Vernon -- be turned into fundamental schools.

Ten schools, not including Southside, were on the original list for possible closure. District officials said they used a variety of factors to narrow the field, including how much it would cost to make improvements and what the district spends on operating the facilities.

The district’s projected savings over five years: $72-million.

"I'm dumbfounded," said Debbie Stotts, a parent at Largo Central, which made the final list because the district says it needs the school’s property for an expansion at neighboring Largo High School.

"It makes you wonder whether they realize what they'll be missing out on. ... It's not just a school they want to tear down for a parking lot, it’s a community."

The feeling was different at Gulf Beaches Elementary, one of several schools on the original list but not in the final recommendation.

"I'm very excited," said Robin Ellis, a Gulf Beaches parent. "I'm breathing easier, but I’m not letting my guard down yet."

Thomas C. Tobin, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:20am]


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