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Peace academy must wait a year to open

Taylor Peace Academy board president Felecia Wintons, left, and principal Rugina Castillo prepared in May for the charter school opening, now postponed to next August.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Taylor Peace Academy board president Felecia Wintons, left, and principal Rugina Castillo prepared in May for the charter school opening, now postponed to next August.

CARROLLWOOD — The first school in Hillsborough County to specialize in peace education will not open for another year because a move and timing disrupted enrollment.

Taylor Peace Academy hoped to kick off its inaugural year Aug. 18 in the former Remington College Annex on E Busch Boulevard.

When the owner of the building put it on the market, founder and school board president Felecia Wintons had to relocate to a space in Carrollwood.

The move cost her students. All but five of the 50 students registered at the original location withdrew when the school moved to the former Broach School at 10512 N Dale Mabry Highway.

With four days left before the start of the 2008-09 school year, Taylor had only six students.

At first Wintons asked superintendent MaryEllen Elia to delay Taylor's opening until August 2009. Then the school received a deluge of requests from parents who wanted to enroll their children in the school, prompting Wintons to issue a second request that it open this year.

"Funds have been spent for the facility," she wrote in an Aug. 22 letter to Elia. "Teachers have been hired, desks and chairs are available, materials and supplies are on hand."

By that time, the school year had begun.

Elia answered on Sept. 2, saying the school could not open until 2009. Under state law, charter schools must begin on the same day as others in the district.

What's more, "we didn't feel it was an opportune time for children who were already in other schools," said Jenna Hodgens, the district's supervisor of charter schools.

The School Board awarded Taylor a five-year contract in March. Just like magnet programs that infuse performing arts, science, law and other disciplines into the curriculum, instructors at Taylor will weave lessons on bullying and conflict resolution into reading, English and math.

To gain acceptance into the school, parents have to agree to take weekly classes on peace education.

Despite the superintendent's decision, Wintons is focused on the positive.

"We have a year to tell people that Taylor Peace Academy is in the community, build relationships with churches, businesses and parents in the area," she said.

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or 269-5303.

>>FAST FACTS

Taylor Peace Academy

(813) 374-0342

www.taylorpeaceacademy.com

Peace academy must wait a year to open 09/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008 4:30am]
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