LARGO — After hearing concerns from parents, the Pinellas County School Board agreed Tuesday to give students at Jamerson Elementary first dibs on open seats at popular Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle for another year.
That means this year's fifth-graders still will have "priority status," along with fundamental students, when applying to A-rated Thurgood Marshall for the 2014-15 school year. Other Jamerson students can apply to Thurgood Marshall in future years, but won't have an advantage over other applicants.
Instead, Jamerson students will get priority for seats at F-rated Azalea Middle and C-rated Bay Point Middle.
The School Board voted 5-2 in favor of the measure Tuesday. Board members Peggy O'Shea and Robin Wikle voted against it.
About 40 students from Jamerson got into Thurgood Marshall this year through the feeder pattern. A few got in separately through the gifted program.
The one-year extension was a compromise. District officials had planned to end Jamerson's feeder pattern to Thurgood Marshall for all students for the coming school year. The board relented after more than 400 parents and students at Jamerson signed a petition asking for a six-year transition period.
The proposal would have given most of the current Jamerson families time to fully cycle through the school with the link to Thurgood Marshall intact. Parents told the board it was unfair that Jamerson's brochure this year prominently advertised the connection between the two schools.
Tammy Kaplan, a parent at Jamerson, told board members Tuesday that parents were asking for stability, particularly for the upper grades.
"We have many parents that are emotional, that are scared," she said.
But board member Rene Flowers said she was concerned about the long waiting list at Thurgood Marshall. More than 250 students were on it this year, according to the district.
"What about other parents who are on a waiting list and have been on a waiting list and still can't get in?" she asked.
Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8846. Follow her on Twitter @Fitz_ly