Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Charter group wants to take over 2 schools set to close

A charter school group announced Thursday it would be willing to take over two of the seven Pinellas schools slated for closure.

Steve Christopoulos, the principal of Plato Academy in Clearwater, said in a statement the group "is prepared to assume occupancy and operate" Coachman Middle School and Palm Harbor Elementary. The Pinellas School Board voted Tuesday to close both buildings as part of a larger effort to cut spending and address declining enrollment.

Although the Coachman building will close, its programs will move to nearby Kennedy Middle.

Plato opened in 2005 and, after some early struggles, has steadily grown, with an enrollment this year of about 235 in kindergarten through sixth grade.

The district has approved Plato's plans to add a second elementary school and a middle school in north Pinellas County. But the group has yet to find sites for the schools.

Christopoulos said buildings now occupied by Palm Harbor Elementary and Coachman would fit nicely into Plato's plans. "If they stay closed," he said, "it's a waste."

In its initial approach to the district, Plato inquired about Palm Harbor Elementary.

Steve Swartzel, the district's government services director, responded in a Jan. 6 letter that the school was not available. The letter cited a state law governing the use of public school buildings by charter schools. It says any surplus or "otherwise unused" school property "shall be provided for a charter school's use on the same basis as it is made available to other public schools in the district."

Swartzel said Palm Harbor wouldn't be available to Plato because "it will not be available to other public schools in the district."

Christopoulos interprets the statute to say Plato could use the property and said he will approach the School Board.

Plato students take classes in Greek language for 45 minutes every day in addition to the regular curriculum. Christopoulos touted the school's A grade from the state and an emphasis on technology. He said the school has a back-to-basics approach and high parent participation, similar to that of fundamental schools.

Turning closed schools into charters would appear to work against the district's plan to cut costs. The district would give up money in the form of per-student allocations from the state; it also would retain ownership and could not collect rent from the charter.

But Christopoulos argued that Plato is going to take students from the district anyway, whether it uses the closed schools or opens in other locations. "The net result is going to be the same," he said.

Charter group wants to take over 2 schools set to close 01/15/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 10:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  2. St. Petersburg man shot in arm during home invasion robbery


    ST. PETERSBURG — One man was arrested on charges he shot another man in the arm while attempting to rob a home in what St. Petersburg police are calling a drug-related incident.

    John Alam, 25, faces charges of home invasion robbery, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon after deputies said he tried to rob a home Wednesday morning and ended up shooting someone. [Courtesy of Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Bob Buckhorn, a mayor who knows what he wants, surveys constituents on what they want


    TAMPA — Focus has not been a problem — or really, even a question — during the six-plus years that Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been in office.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn keeps a digital countdown clock in his office showing the days, hours. minutes and seconds until he is term-limited out of office on April 1, 2019. As of Wednesday, he had 584 days to go. [City of Tampa]
  4. WATCH: Heroic Hooters manager helps two sheriff's deputies subdue unruly customer


    BRANDON — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office praised a heroic Hooters Restaurant manager Wednesday for coming to the aid of two deputies struggling to subdue an unruly customer.

    It took two deputies and a Hooter's manager to get control of Ashton B. Toney after he threatened to kill an employee who refused to serve him alcohol at a Hooter's in Brandon, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office reported.
[Booking photo from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]