TAMPA — The callers are anxious, full of questions or downright worried when they ring up the Kimbell Full Service School's parent resource center.
It's no wonder, with their child's education at stake and a deadline looming. It's school choice time in the Hillsborough County schools.
Through April 24, the district is accepting applications for the full range of school choice options, including magnet, career and technical programs. For parents who are new to the district, it's a dizzying array.
"First, they want to know what the options are," said Conchita Canty-Jones, administrator at the Kimbell center.
"They're asking if transportation is provided, how does that work. They also ask about the grades of the school, and the services they provide."
Families have nearly 30 magnet or special-interest programs to choose from, as well as 69 neighborhood schools with available seats in the choice program and dozens of career or technical programs. Last year the district got 5,500 applications for the neighborhood choice slots, plus thousands for specialized programs.
The district will hold an informational meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Plant High to help parents consider their options. Another meeting is April 23 at Tampa Bay Tech.
Families are also welcome to arrange visits at specific schools they're interested in. Visitors to the district's Web site can download an application for most choice options, as well as those for specialized high school programs.
For some families, the process is relatively easy. Tampa parent Kim Greer's high school-aged son knew where he wanted to be.
"For us it was simple," she said. "He wanted performing arts, and the only performing arts program was Blake. He's been happy there."
Even if a family's top choice school doesn't have an opening now, they should apply in case an opening occurs, said choice communications manager Terrie Dodson-Caldevilla. The district will offer one more choice application period in June, with the possibility of another after school starts in the fall.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3400.