New student assignment planning group gets to work in Pinellas

LARGO — It is historically one of the most controversial things a school district can do: change school zones or add — or eliminate — programs that could mean new schools for some kids.

On Wednesday, Pinellas superintendent Julie Janssen warned most of the 34 members of the district's new "student assignment planning group" that their task will affect all of the families in the district — and it won't be an easy one.

"Change is difficult," Janssen told the parents, educators and school district leaders gathered at district headquarters.

They are expected to craft a plan for School Board review that offers parents predictable feeder patterns, multiple school options, good close to home choices as well as reduces transportation costs, allows diversity and is equitable districtwide.

"Everything's on the table today," deputy superintendent Jim Madden said.

Wednesday's conversation was wide ranging as the group brainstormed about what might be possible for Pinellas schools — what to start doing, what to stop and what to continue.

On three giant pieces of paper labeled "elementary," "middle" and "high school," members scribbled questions or ideas that might help improve student assignment at each level. There were plenty of examples.

High school: "Is 7 a.m. too early?" highlighting the ongoing concern over start times.

Middle schools: "Expanded career exploration options."

Elementaries: "More programs for struggling students (academically and behaviorally).

Wednesday's meeting was the first of three planned two-hour sessions. The next one is scheduled for Monday. Administrators plan to bring something to the School Board for first reading on Nov. 9, and for a final vote on Dec. 7.

If any changes are approved, they could be in place as early as the 2011-12 school year.

New student assignment planning group gets to work in Pinellas 09/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:16am]

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