Pinellas' Lealman Innovation Academy to accept 27 over-aged, at-risk fifth grade students
The Pinellas County school district will accommodate 29 students identified as over-aged and at-risk who have accepted offers to transfer to Lealman Innovation Academy and Clearwater Intermediate to get back on track.
District officials at an October workshop refreshed School Board members on how the district works with over-aged, at-risk students, who are identified as two years behind grade level and who also scored a 1 on their most recent Florida Standards Assessment English language arts exam.
Families of 135 at-risk and over-aged fifth grade students throughout the district received invitations to transfer to Lealman Innovation or Clearwater Intermediate, which have 5.5 programs that include fifth and sixth grade standards to catch students up to speed.
Out of 29 total, 27 students from Bay Point, Bear Creek, Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Gulfport, Lakewood, Maximo, Melrose, Midtown Academy and New Heights elementary schools have or will transfer to Lealman Innovation. The two remaining students are interested in attending Clearwater Intermediate.
“The goal is that they will be getting the academic supports necessary so they can get on track and stay on track,” said Dywayne Hinds, the district’s executive director of middle school education.
Every spring, the district evaluates fourth graders and targets them for a 5.5 intervention program. If students who are passed on to middle school don’t meet the 12-course requirement in three years, they cannot be legally promoted to high school.
“We have to do some intense work ahead of time,” Hinds said. “We really have to go back and look at how we strategically eliminate our closing-the-gap issue in middle schools.”
Hinds says the personalized learning magnet program at Lealman Innovation can help bridge that gap. The district hired two new teachers to teach the incoming over-aged, at-risk students, and classes are capped 15 students to make learning more intimate. Students will get help with digital learning, intensive math and intensive reading.
According to the school district, 98 percent of all students enrolled in 5.5 programs were successfully promoted to the seventh grade after fifth grade.
While Clearwater Intermediate is and has been a dropout prevention school, Lealman Innovation Academy last year was rebranded as a personalized learning magnet, however the school is still labeled as an alternative school by the state.
District spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said the Lealman Innovation’s ongoing dropout prevention program is “not necessarily something we broadly advertise.”
Schools like Lealman Innovation and Clearwater Intermediate do not receive letter grades from the state like traditional schools. The schools students entering Lealman Innovation are coming from currently have C, D and F grades.
When asked if transferring over-aged, at-risk students out of schools that receive letter grades and into an alternative school without those same grades would benefit those traditional schools, district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf answered before Hinds and area superintendent Barbara Hires could respond.
"Our focus is really just to support students, and that is our motivation," she said. "Whatever will support the students academically is what we’ll focus on."
If students opt to stay in their neighborhood school, the district works with families to put the student in an alternative placement in middle school, such as a 6.5 program that includes standards from
District-wide, there are a total of 1,093 students who are enrolled in a traditional public school. Of those, 493 are in high school, 325 are in middle school and 275 are in elementary school.