Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Education

10 Pasco schools propose magnet-type programs

LAND O'LAKES — Ten Pasco County elementary schools have answered superintendent Heather Fiorentino's call to create academic themes that could draw new students to their doors.

Half of them sit along the bustling State Road 54 corridor, an area that generally has strong parent support and interest but also loses some students to nearby charter and private schools. Four of the schools propose a focus on science, math and technology, while another three want to emphasize the arts.

Among those arts centers, Longleaf Elementary School also states it would like to be a K-8 school.

One school would have a college-prep curriculum. Another would place students in Spanish-English dual language immersion. The final one would create a "global marketplace" theme revolving around a Florida-friendly garden at the school.

A community survey this spring revealed that about half of respondents were interested in magnet schools. The theme areas that generated the most interest were STEM and college prep.

Assistant superintendent David Scanga plans to present the schools' ideas to the School Board on Tuesday to get direction as to which, if any, the board might want to pursue. If the board wants to get any of them open in the fall, district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said, that would require initial startup money of about $10,000 to $20,000 each.

That amount would cover such costs as planning and staff development.

Board members said they welcome a conversation about establishing magnet-type options. The district currently has no magnet schools, although it does have specialty attractor programs including International Baccalaureate and career academies.

"I am glad for whatever motivation and reason they are finally willing to have a discussion on things I have been wanting to talk about for three or four years," board member Allen Altman said. "It will benefit our district."

Before jumping in, board members will need more details regarding funding, goals, time lines and other key matters, board chairwoman Joanne Hurley said.

"There will be many questions on the part of the board," Hurley said. "We'll need some hard answers before we go forward."

Vicki Garner, principal of Seven Springs Elementary School, looked forward to establishing a "school of innovation" if the board approves. She has proposed the dual language immersion program for Seven Springs.

The school has operated a small-scale version of the program for several years in one classroom per grade level for zoned students only. Efforts to expand snagged on budget concerns.

"When the conversation went to schools of innovation, we opened ours up as an example in hopes we could get even better," Garner said. "We figured this was an opportunity to reinvigorate the program."

The School Board will discuss the magnet concepts during a workshop at 3 p.m. Tuesday. The board also is scheduled to discuss the Penny for Pasco and the 2012-13 budget.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

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