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3,000 families in Pinellas await school assignment

Two weeks from the start of the new school year, about 3,000 Pinellas families are waiting to hear if their children will get a seat in the school they want.

These parents took advantage of the district's open enrollment period and requested a school other than the neighborhood school to which their children were assigned in the spring.

By day's end Tuesday, the district had reassigned 715 students. Officials say they expect to place many more by the end of the week, when they will start notifying families.

"Our goal is to get as many kids as we can in the seats they want to be in," assistant superintendent Jim Madden said. "Everybody wins when that happens."

But there are constraints, Madden warned, including school capacities and restrictions on class size. The upshot? Lots of people are likely to be disappointed.

And it's clear from the requests that parents want into certain schools and out of others.

Kindergarten parents, for example, like Plumb Elementary in Clearwater. Oakhurst Elementary in Largo and Bauder in Seminole also are popular "go to" schools.

But they're not so keen on Bardmoor Elementary in Seminole, Walsingham in Largo and San Jose in Dunedin.

San Jose didn't fare well with parents of children in Grades 1-5 either, nor did Sandy Lane and Fuguitt elementaries, both in Clearwater. The school that parents appeared to like best for their first- through fifth-graders was Dunedin Elementary, followed by Shore Acres, Sexton and New Heights, all in St. Petersburg.

Middle school parents were most likely to request Seminole, Meadowlawn in St. Petersburg, and Osceola in Seminole. They wanted out of Dunedin Highland, Pinellas Park Middle and Largo Middle.

Three high schools — St. Petersburg High, Palm Harbor University High and Seminole High — were head and shoulders above the rest when it came to the number of requests "in."

But parents were clearly disenchanted with Tarpon Springs, Dixie Hollins, Largo, Dunedin, Gibbs and Boca Ciega, in that order.

Five of the six schools received letter grades of D from the state this past year, and most of them have earned D's for the past several years. Gibbs became the first high school in the district to receive an F based on 2008-09 scores.

The open enrollment period, which did not include magnet or fundamental schools, ended July 31. The number of parents seeking a different school was greater last year, district figures show. The district received about 6,500 requests for the 2008-09 academic year, more than twice the requests made for this school year.

School Board member Janet Clark says 3,000 requests are still too many. "I think every school in this county should be so good that we don't have parents asking for a different school," Clark said.

Madden, the assistant superintendent, said students who don't get the school they want still may get in. School populations shift, opening up seats, he said. "Our first consideration for those seats will be families who went through open enrollment," he said.

Donna Winchester can be reached at winchester@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8413.

Requests made for changes in school assignment during the Pinellas school district's open enrollment period

Grade levelNumberPercent of total enrollment

Kindergarten5128%

Elementary1,3353%

Middle582.4%

High School739.4%

Source: Pinellas School District

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3,000 families in Pinellas await school assignment 08/11/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 11:31am]

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