Pinellas school board supports initial plan for new schools
A proposal to re-open two shuttered schools as technology magnets received initial support from the Pinellas County School Board at its Thursday workshop.
The school board green-lit Superintendent Mike Grego and school system administrators to continue exploring the proverbial rebirth of Gulf Beaches and Kings Highway elementaries, both closed in 2009. While the percentage of seats that will be reserved for students living near the schools remains unclear, school officials plan to bring the board more detailed information in January.
A significant percentage of each school's population left the school district or enrolled in a magnet or charter school, an indication that these schools would be best suited as magnet "choice" schools, Director of Student Assignment Bill Lawrence said.
"The data screams they want another choice, and these are two areas of the county that bubbled up very quickly as wanting a school of choice," Lawrence said.
Michael Bessette, the district's director of operations, said he did not yet have a cost estimate to renovate the two schools. But both Grego and he repeatedly said that both campuses were in good condition.
Gulf Beaches just needs "a little paint, shampoo in the carpets," and safety checks, Bessette said. The water's not on, so they'll also have to check the plumbing.
Kings Highway "we actually started to bring back a few years ago," Bessette said. The floors need coverings because they had become moldy, so crews have pulled them up.
Meanwhile, director of curriculum Pam Moore shared a little bit of her vision for what the tech schools will look like. "The physical look of the classroom will change," Moore said. "You won't see desks. You'll see tables, and everything on wheels."
Under the "flipped classroom" instructional model, students will sometimes learn online at home, then use that knowledge during class projects and assignments - essentially flipping homework with the traditional instructional time, Moore said.
School board member Peggy O'Shea called the proposal "a great idea."
Although she and her colleagues agreed that Pinellas needed to close schools to cut costs and address enrollment issues, "we isolated people geographically in this county. We have whole areas where we have no schools," O'Shea said. "When we have no schools, the community goes away."