Friday, May 25, 2018
Education

Planning to apply for a Pinellas school ‘choice’ program? The time has come

If history is any guide, more than 20,000 applications from some 11,000 students will flow into the Pinellas County school system’s computers over the next two weeks as families seek access to choice programs.

Those numbers have been fairly consistent in recent years, part of a winter application cycle that has become a familiar annual ritual. Families looking for options outside of their regular zoned school will be vying for entry into special programs like magnets, fundamental schools and career academies.

Pinellas offers about 70 of them, with themes that include technology and the arts, gifted education and health care, law enforcement, construction trades and more.

SCHOOL SEARCH 2018: A guide to school choice programs in the Tampa Bay area

Applications must be submitted online through the district’s Student Reservation System, and the first day to do that is Wednesday. The last day is Jan. 19.

After that comes a computer lottery conducted internally by the district, followed by an "acceptance period" in February, when parents and guardians must check back with the reservation system to see if their students have been invited into any programs.

RELATED: How to navigate the Pinellas school choice lottery

Not everyone gets into a program but a large majority do. This time last year, 11,072 students applied, and the lottery system responded with 10,682 invitations. Some applicants were luckier than most, getting invitations to more than one program.

The process can be complicated, especially for families who are new to it. So the district is offering three "application assistance sessions" in the coming days to help parents navigate.

In the fall, the district held a series of open houses called "Discovery Nights," where families could visit programs and ask questions. But for those who missed out, some programs are still offering tours and opportunities to shadow students for a day.

The number of programs has grown in recent years as Pinellas, like other districts, works to keep up in an age when lawmakers are holding fast to the philosophy that the public school system works best when prodded by outside competition. That thinking has spawned an ever-expanding number of charter schools and state-sponsored "scholarship" programs that allow lower-income and disabled students to attend private schools.

For families who strike out during the January-February choice cycle in Pinellas, the district holds a late application period that lasts until the end of the calendar year, offering spots in programs that still have unfilled seats.

While those seats tend to be in less popular programs, many families find this option helpful.

Meanwhile, choice programs aren’t the only ones gearing up for next school year.

The district also is reaching out this month to families who plan to send their kindergarten students to their zoned school in 2018-19.

Kindergarten registration begins Wednesday. Children must be 5 years old before Sept. 1, 2018.

To help families prepare, the district is holding its annual "Ready, Set ... Kindergarten" program, allowing parents and future students to explore classrooms, meet teachers and find out about features in the district’s regular zoned schools.

The events are scheduled next week at dozens of Pinellas elementary schools. For a schedule, visit pcsb.org/kg.

__________

Key dates

Jan. 10: First day to apply for a choice program. Parents must use the Student Reservation System at reservation.pcsb.org. After entering their User ID and password, obtained at any school, they can select up to five programs in order of preference.

Jan. 19: Last day to apply.

Feb. 14-21: Period when families can accept invitations to programs for which they have applied. During this period, families can change their mind and select a different program, as long as they do it before the Feb. 21 deadline. Failure to accept an invitation will render a student’s application invalid.

Getting help

District officials will help parents with applications during three evening sessions:

Jan. 11, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Sandy Lane Elementary, 1360 Sandy Lane, Clearwater

Jan. 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Gibbs High, 850 34th St. S, St. Petersburg

Jan. 18, 4:30-7:30 p.m., District Student Assignment Office, 301 Fourth St. SW, Largo

For more information, visit pcsb.org/choice or call the district’s Student Assignment office at (727) 588-6210.

Contact Thomas C. Tobin at [email protected] Follow @ThomasCTobin

Comments
Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

Eckerd College student who fell before graduation has died

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student who was critically injured last weekend during an accidental fall on campus shortly before she was to graduate died today, the school announced.Rebecca Ryan "Becca" Lavin-Burgher would have graduated with a ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

A school resource officer allegedly told a gay student she would go to hell. Now he’s going away.

The stares and whispers started on the first day of school more than two years ago, when Liv Funk and Hailey Smith silently declared their relationship in the halls of North Bend High School by holding hands.They knew coming out would be hard in the ...
Published: 05/24/18
What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

What is a college’s responsibility to parents when a student is suicidal?

CLINTON, N.Y. — In the days after her son Graham hanged himself in his dormitory room at Hamilton College, Gina Burton went about settling his affairs in a blur of efficiency, her grief tinged with a nagging sense that something did not add up.She fi...
Published: 05/24/18
Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

Hillsborough teachers hope to get some, but not all of their raise money

TAMPA — Teachers in Hillsborough County came closer on Wednesday to reaching an agreement with the school district that would give them most, but not all of the pay they expected this past year.The deal, if it happens, will end a year-long conflict t...
Published: 05/23/18
Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

Ridgewood High faithful recall ‘Pride of Pasco’ as school forges a new path

NEW PORT RICHEY — The line snaked through the hallways and into the cafeteria, as the Ridgewood High faithful waited for their chance to secure a piece of the school’s 40-year history.They came by the hundreds — current and former students, staff and...
Published: 05/23/18
Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

Words of wisdom from Class of 2018 on how school shootings have transformed them

TAMPA — The pain of the Parkland shootings Feb. 14 was fresh on the minds of Hillsborough County’s graduating seniors when about 300 of them received an assignment. Write a 250-word essay on how decades of school shootings have touched y...
Published: 05/23/18
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Published: 05/22/18
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18