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Group pulls application for arts magnet school in Hernando County

BROOKSVILLE — A group that sought to open Hernando's first fine arts charter school by next fall has withdrawn its application with the intent of trying again for 2012.

The Hernando school district's charter review committee and superintendent Bryan Blavatt recommended last week that the School Board deny the application of the Infusion! School of the Arts. The committee cited concerns about flawed enrollment projections and an incomplete budget, among other issues.

Merritt Tilson, president of the Infusion board of directors, issued a news release announcing the application withdrawal late Monday night.

"The comments from the school district are helpful, and they're all things we're going to go back and revise in our application with those comments in mind," Tilson said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

The School Board had been slated to discuss the application at a workshop Tuesday afternoon and take a formal vote as early as Sept. 21. The deadline to submit the application is Aug. 1, 2011.

Tilson said the board is hopeful the application will garner approval next year to allow for a fall 2012 opening.

The plan calls for a yet-to-be-determined Spring Hill location that would serve students in grades 6 to 12, offering programs in dance, drama, instrumental music, vocal music and the visual arts, with possible additions later. The artistic disciplines would be infused into the core curriculum.

The school would serve students who leave Chocachatti Elementary's fine arts magnet program, the application said. The district committee, comprised of employees from various departments, were skeptical that the school would attract all of Chocachatti's fifth-graders.

The committee determined that the school's budget projections were incomplete and underestimated expenses, and that the application fell short in demonstrating how the school would meet the needs of exceptional students.

Tilson said next year's application will include data that more clearly shows there is a demand for the fine arts charter. She noted that a start-up budget for the school had been inadvertently left out of the application.

Tilson on Friday met with Jeff Yungmann, curriculum supervisor for the Hernando district and chairman of the charter review committee, to discuss the findings.

"We've learned exactly how the district wants us to present the information," she said.

Tilson and her husband, Scott, are co-owners of All About Music, a music supply store in Spring Hill that also offers music lessons. Both have experience as music instructors in the Hernando schools, and they pulled together a group of educators to put together the Infusion application to expand opportunities for area students, especially those considering an arts major in college.

The School Board did not discuss the application Tuesday, but after board chairman Pat Fagan said his sense is the school would fill a needed niche.

"I think it's a wonderful concept," Fagan said. "I personally think there is a place for it."

Tilson said her board would seek feedback from students and families to back up the data meant to show there is plenty of interest.

"We're looking for the community to help us prove that this year," she said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

FAST FACTS

On the Web

For information about the Infusion! School of the Arts proposal, go to hernandofineartscharterschool.webs.com.

Group pulls application for arts magnet school in Hernando County 09/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 9:34pm]
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