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At least 4 new charter schools coming this fall to Pinellas County School District

Two offer Pinellas students the chance to go to a different kind of high school. Another is opening its fourth campus. Still another is creating a school for younger students.

Four charter schools are scheduled to open this fall — and possibly a fifth one — making it a record number of openings, according to school district officials.

"This is the most number of charter schools the Pinellas County School District has ever had," said Dot Clark, the district's coordinator of partnership schools.

The grand total so far: 19. Currently about 4,500 students are enrolled in Pinellas charter schools.

School officials are bracing for more in light of a law approved this year that makes it easier for high-performing charter schools to get 15-year contracts.

Steve Hollander, chief operating officer for Mavericks High schools, said the company wants to open 10 to 15 schools in Florida a year. It is opening Mavericks High of South Pinellas County in St. Petersburg in the fall and already has a school in Largo as well as seven others in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The Palm Beach-based company is helmed by Frank Biden, Vice President Joe Biden's brother.

Mavericks High schools offer struggling students as old as 21 the chance to still earn a traditional high school diploma.

"There is a number of students, particularly minority students, who are not achieving high school diplomas," Hollander said. "This (expansion) will have tremendous impact on the population we want to serve."

Mavericks High recently mailed out a promotional postcard to Pinellas families touting its in-class instruction and virtual courses.

The school hopes to enlist up to 400 students in its first year and would cap out at 550 students by the end of its five-year contract, according to district records.

In the past school year, Pinellas school officials received 21 charter applications, and so far, School Board members have approved contracts for at least six, according to Pinellas schools records.

Another application, for the Ben Gamla Charter School, is scheduled for School Board approval this month, Clark said. If approved it would be the 20th charter school.

• • •

Here's a look at the other three charter schools opening in the fall:

• Plato Academy Seminole Charter School is the fourth such school in Pinellas and will serve students in kindergarten through fourth grade. It hopes to enroll up to 546 students.

• Newpoint Pinellas High in Clearwater will serve students in grades nine through 12. The company runs five other schools in Hillsborough County and Pensacola. The school is looking to enroll 225 ninth- to 10th-grade students in the fall.

• Pinellas Primary Academy in Largo will serve as a feeder school to the Pinellas Preparatory Academy, also in Largo. The latter, which opened in 2002, serves students in fourth through eighth grade. The Primary Academy will enroll kindergarten through third-grade students, said Curtis Fuller, superintendent of the academy.

Already, the school has accepted 288 students and received about 600 applications in April. A lottery was used for admissions.

"Enrollment went very well; we have more applicants than we have spaces," Fuller said. "We have a waiting list for every grade level now."

Not all charter schools are trouble free in Pinellas County, however. Last year, School Board members closed Life Skills Center in St. Petersburg for not meeting educational goals.

The school was operated by White Hats Management, one of the largest for-profit charter companies in the country. Another campus in north Pinellas opted to sever ties with the company and renamed itself New Start, Clark said.

Imagine Schools in Pinellas County, run by another nationwide charter company, has come under fire for running a high deficit and for garnering an F grade in the 2009-10 school year.

Fast facts

Pinellas County charter schools

Charter schools "are public schools of choice and are among the fastest growing school choice options in Florida," according to the Florida Department of Education website. In 2010 there were 400 charters schools enrolling over 137,000 students.

Academie Da Vinci, Dunedin

Grades: K-5

Alfred Adler Elementary, St. Petersburg

Grades: K-3

Athenian Academy Imagine Charter, Dunedin

Grades: K-8

Imagine Elementary School, St. Petersburg

Grades: PreK-5

Imagine Middle School, St. Petersburg

Grades: 6-8

Life Force Arts & Technology Academy,

Clearwater

Grades: K-4

New Start (formerly Life Skills), Clearwater

Grades: 9-12

Mavericks in Education, Largo

Grades: 9-12

Pinellas Preparatory Academy, Largo

Grades: 4-8

Plato Academy, Clearwater

Grades: K-8

Plato South Academy, Largo

Grades: K-8

Plato North Academy, Palm Harbor

Grades: K-3

St. Petersburg Collegiate High School

Grades: 10-12

Coming in 2011-2012 school year

Newpoint Pinellas High, Clearwater

Grades: 9-12

Pinellas Primary, Largo

Grades: Pre K-4

Mavericks High of South Pinellas County

Grades: 9-12

Plato Academy Seminole

Grades: K-5

2011-2012 planning year

(no students)

Pinellas Academy of Math & Science, Largo

Grades: K-8

Rudolf Dreikurs, St. Petersburg

Grades: K-5

At least 4 new charter schools coming this fall to Pinellas County School District 07/12/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:09pm]
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