Pinellas exploring more middle school options
Parents in Pinellas County often start looking at middle school and high school options when their children are entering kindergarten.
That's because it's difficult to get into a popular magnet program or fundamental school at an older age. Last year, more than 9,000 students in all grade levels applied to special programs, but 43 percent didn't receive an invitation to any of their choices. The problem is acute at the middle school level where the district has had only two non-fundamental magnet programs.
Pinellas is looking to change that with the addition of four new middle school programs in the 2014/15 school year. The School Board will hear more about the programs at its work session Wednesday.
The programs, which have been discussed before, include: a pre-Cambridge program at Pinellas Park Middle, an engineering program for middle school students at East Lake High, a STEM/engineering program at Azalea Middle, and an arts program at Tarpon Springs Middle.
Two of the schools, Azalea Middle and Pinellas Park Middle, have been targeted by the state for staff restructuring because of chronic low performance. The new programs could attract higher-performing students.
The program at Tarpon Springs Middle is similar to the Leadership Conservatory for the Arts at Tarpon Springs High. It could draw students from Palm Harbor Middle and Carwise Middle, which are at or above their total capacity. Similar reasons are given for the development of the engineering program for middle school students at East Lake High, although it's not as clear how that program would function on a high school campus.