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Navigating through application process for special school program in Pinellas

Every year around this time, Pinellas County Schools invites families to apply for school programs that go beyond what is offered at regular zoned schools. The application period began Jan. 9 and ends Jan. 29. New this year: Applications must be filled out online. Here are some questions and answers to help you navigate the application period:

What is the purpose of the Jan. 9-to-29 application period?

This is the time when Pinellas families can apply to get into a school with special programs their regular zoned schools do not offer. These programs come in many forms: fundamental schools, magnet schools, magnet programs housed within regular schools, "area magnets," high school career academies and high school centers of excellence. Unlike zoned schools, these programs are open to students throughout the county or a large area of the county. Elsewhere in this special section, you'll find descriptions of what they offer and a map showing their locations.

When can I apply to a special program?

By Jan. 29.

How do I find out about all these programs?

By attending school discovery nights, consulting this section or the district's 2010-11 Program Guide. In both publications, discovery night schedules are listed with the program listings. (At some schools, discovery nights are not listed because they preceded the date of this publication.) Discovery nights, or campus tours, for these schools are scheduled through Jan. 28. The district's Program Guide is available at any school or at pcsb.org. Go to the box titled "pcsNEWS" and click on the link to the guide.

What if I missed a discovery night? Can I still visit a school?

Most schools will arrange a tour if you call ahead.

How do I apply for a special program?

All applications must be completed online, a change this year. Parents must obtain a ParentCONNECTxp ID and password to apply. You can get the ID and password from any school, but be sure to bring a photo ID with you. You only need one ID and password per family. Once you have the user ID and password, use the computer at the school or your home computer to log onto pcsb.org. Click on the green "Student Reservation System" button on the right and follow the instructions. Many middle and high school programs have eligibility criteria and require students to submit additional documentation by Feb. 1. For a list of schools requiring documents, consult the district's Program Guide.

Can I apply to more than one program?

You may apply to as many special programs as you wish.

How do I know if my child is accepted to a special program?

You MUST log in to the student reservation system from March 1 to 8 to see if your child is accepted into the programs you applied. Your decision must be made by March 8. You won't receive anything in the mail.

What do I do if my child is invited to more than one program?

You may choose only one program. Once you've selected a school, your child's name will automatically be erased from other lists, including waiting lists.

My child did not get invited to a program, but landed on several waiting lists. What do I do?

If your child is on a waiting list there is no need to take action. Your child will stay on the list until you accept an invitation to a program. Once you accept the invitation, your child's name will be erased from the other lists. Waiting lists for elementary and middle school programs stay in place for the entire 2010-11 school year. Waiting lists for high school programs expire on the 11th day of the second semester.

What else should I know about applying for a special program?

• Applications are considered equally and not on a first-come, first-served basis.

• You don't lose your child's current seat by applying — only if you accept an invitation.

• Priority placement is given to two groups: full-time district employees who apply to get their children into the schools where they work, and applicants with siblings who already attend the school and who will be at the school next year. IMPORTANT NOTE: You must call the school before the application period ends to be considered for priority placement.

I can't tell from the maps what my zone is. How can I find that out?

Through the district's new online "Zoned School Locator." To find it, go to pcsb.org and look in the "pcsNEWS" box. Click on the link, type in your address and hit the search button. On the next screen, click on "Select" to get your zoned middle and high schools and your proposed zoned elementary school.

Why do we have special programs? Why can't every school be special?

Special programs are a legacy of the desegregation era and were designed to attract white families into black neighborhoods. That's why many of these programs are in south Pinellas County, where most of the county's black population lives. Since formal desegregation efforts were phased out, district officials see special programs as a way to retain racial diversity at some schools, but also as a way to give families a wider array of school choices.

Are there any computers at the parent resource centers for parents who don't have computers to use? Or elsewhere?

Parents may go to any school, public library, the Title I parent resource center and student assignment office to use a computer to apply online. The instructions/application are in both English and Spanish. The office also has a Spanish-speaking staff member who can assist Spanish-speaking parents

Times staff

Navigating through application process for special school program in Pinellas 01/16/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 18, 2010 11:07am]
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