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Hundreds apply for new magnet schools

The first new schools to open in Pinellas in a decade received nearly 400 applications and put kindergarten students on wait lists, district officials said Tuesday.

Neither Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach or Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater received enough applications to fill its 348 and 276 seats, respectively. Gulf Beaches had received 249 applications to Kings Highway's 141 by the time the application period closed Monday night.

But Bill Lawrence, director of student assignment, says the district was pleased with the number of applications and expects the schools to fill up as late applications are accepted.

"Once principals are identified and hired there will be additional outreach events, and slowly but surely by the opening of school in August, I think you're going to see most of these seats filled," Lawrence said.

"At this point," he said, "we're very, very happy."

Postings for the principal jobs will go up immediately, and Lawrence expects that hires will be announced in "very early April."

Gulf Beaches and Kings Highway were among several schools closed in 2009 amid dwindling enrollment. Pinellas, seeing the long wait lists for its magnet and fundamental programs, decided to reopen them this fall as technology magnet schools.

Each student will receive an iPad, and teachers will use the "flipped" classroom, which introduces new topics as homework and uses class-time to reinforce those skills. Pam Moore, associate superintendent of teaching and learning, has said the curriculum will be integrated, with science topics infused in reading lessons.

The school system also hopes to re-engage families who live near the schools but fled to private schools, charter schools or other magnets when Gulf Beaches and Kings Highway closed.

Lawrence said he did not know Tuesday how many applicants came from the schools' neighborhoods — just that all of these "in-zone" children received seats.

Both schools received the most applications for kindergarten — 74 at Gulf Beaches and 41 at Kings Highway — and have put students on wait lists. All students who applied for seats in the first through fifth grades received invitations. Kings Highway also will host a prekindergarten center.

"The fact that kindergarten has a wait list is a very good indication that people want these programs," School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook said. "I could see how others might be a little hesitant leaving a school they're already established at, but it's a great sign at kindergarten."

Parents have through Friday to accept these invitations, lest they lose their seats. Another application period begins March 31.

Contact Lisa Gartner at lgartner@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter (@lisagartner).

Hundreds apply for new magnet schools 03/18/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 11:45pm]
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