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Anti-bullying school needs more students before it can open

CARROLLWOOD — Taylor Peace Academy, the first school in Hillsborough County to specialize in anti-bullying, didn't have enough students to open last week.

The charter school hoped to kick off its inaugural year with 162 students in grades K-3. But with four days left before the start of the 2008-09 school year, it had only six students.

"It wasn't significant enough for them to open a school," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said. "You can't operate a school with the amount of money you would get for six students."

The students were reassigned to their neighborhood school or one within the district's choice program.

Teachers, however, weren't as fortunate. They have to wait three more weeks before the district lifts a hiring freeze and starts interviewing for open positions.

The school's founders are hoping it doesn't come to that. They want to open as soon as possible and Friday, they petitioned the head of the district's charter school program to allow them to do just that. Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia was out of town Friday and unable to review the request until Monday, Cobbe said.

"We've gotten quite a few requests from parents in the past week who want to enroll their children in Taylor Peace Academy," said Felecia Wintons, president of the school's board. "We have a building here and we know we can get the enrollment that we need with the help of the district."

It was well on its way to reaching its target enrollment goal until June. Wintons spent months promoting the former Remington College Annex on East Busch Boulevard as the future home of the school. Then the owner of the building, which Wintons leased, put it on the market.

She quickly found space — on another end of town — at the former Broach School, 10512 N Dale Mabry Highway, Carrollwood.

Parents who registered their children at the original location pulled them out. Of the 50 students slated to attend Taylor, all but five withdrew, Wintons said.

Cobbe said the school has completed enrollment papers for 15 students, but she isn't sure when Elia will hand down a decision on its fate. The school board awarded Taylor a five-year contract in March. Even if it doesn't open this year, it can open next year.

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5303.

Anti-bullying school needs more students before it can open 08/25/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 26, 2008 6:23pm]
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