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Last hope for schools

Students, parents and staff at a Palm Harbor Elementary PTA-sponsored rally read a position paper before voting to present it to the School Board.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Students, parents and staff at a Palm Harbor Elementary PTA-sponsored rally read a position paper before voting to present it to the School Board.

Parents were rattled recently by news the school district plans to close five elementary schools to help offset a projected $40-million budget shortfall next year. Some said they bought their homes just to be near their favorite school. Others questioned the School Board's logic in closing their high-performing school, which will scatter thriving students and talented staff. One said she would move out of the county a year early to avoid her child's transfer to another school. And many said they hadn't given up hope for a last-minute reprieve when the board votes on the issue in the coming weeks. Here's a look at the three North Pinellas elementary schools on the chopping block:

— Rita Farlow, Times staff writer

Kings Highway

1956 Year built

400 Enrollment

424 Capacity

75 Staff

80 Number of PTA members

2 Number of portables

88 Percentage of students on free/reduced lunch

c School grade 2007-08.

a School grade 2006-07.

c School grade 2005-06.

b School grade 2004-05.

a School grade 2003-04

"I want them to think about what they're doing to our children. They're not giving our children the education we promised them. We're shortchanging them every single day. It's not their fault we don't have enough money."

Bonnie Monroe, 46, PTA president

North Ward

1915 Year built

311 Enrollment

344 Capacity

50 Staff

40 Number of PTA members

3 Number of portables

72 Percentage of students on free/reduced lunch

a School grade 2007-08.

a School grade 2006-07.

a School grade 2005-06.

a School grade 2004-05.

a School grade 2003-04

"I think that it is a shame. … It is one of the few schools that is left with small class sizes, and there's not another staff that cares more about their children. (School Board members) need to think more about the children, I think, and find another solution than closing these schools."

Courtney Kane, 30, PTA president

Palm Harbor

1950 Year built

371 Enrollment

388 Capacity

59 Staff

210 Number of PTA members

10 Number of portables

30 Percentage of students on free/reduced lunch

a School grade 2007-08.

a School grade 2006-07.

a School grade 2005-06.

a School grade 2004-05.

a School grade 2003-04

"It's part of your family. You just know your kids are going to be safe there and they're going to be loved and they're going to be taught. It's really sad. (The School Board should) make sure you're completely informed and doing what's best for the kids and not just going straight to the bottom line."

Debi Fiegle, 41, PTA president

If you go

The Pinellas School Board on Tuesday will hold the first of at least two public hearings on its proposed budget cuts. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at district headquarters, 301 Fourth St. SW in Largo. People who want to speak should sign up at the door. The meeting also will be broadcast live on the district's television channel, WPDS-TV. A second public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 13.

Last hope for schools 12/06/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 14, 2008 1:08pm]

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