Sunday, April 22, 2018
Education

Pinellas School Board impressed by proposal to open two new magnet schools

A proposal to reopen two elementary schools as technology magnets received strong support Tuesday from the Pinellas School Board, setting the stage for a special application period to enroll students in time for the 2014-15 academic year.

Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach and Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater would reserve the majority of their seats for students in homes that were zoned for the schools when they closed in 2009, or students who live within a few miles of the campuses.

"I think we could fill the schools within two weeks," said Bill Lawrence, director of student assignment.

Dubbed the "Center for Innovation and Digital Learning," the magnet program encompassing both schools would emphasize learning through technology. It would employ the "flipped classroom," wherein students learn lessons online at home, then practice their knowledge during class time.

At a School Board workshop, officials offered new details and an initial cost estimate of $680,000 to get the schools ready. The proposal came to light in December as an answer to the long wait lists and high demand for magnet and fundamental programs in Pinellas.

When Gulf Beaches closed, more than half its students went to a "choice" school such as a magnet, fundamental or charter, rather than enrolling at the nearest traditional school, Azalea Elementary.

Pinellas is hoping to recapture those who left the traditional public school system, reserving 50 percent of seats for students in the former zones and another 20 percent for those living within 3 miles of the schools. The remaining 30 percent would come from larger "application areas" — the south area for Gulf Beaches and the north for Kings Highway.

Gulf Beaches can hold 18 classrooms, or 348 students. Kings Highway would have 28 classrooms and up to 522 students, with half dedicated to a prekindergarten center serving the surrounding elementaries.

"This is so exciting," School Board member Robin Wikle said, expressing a sentiment shared by a board that had few challenges to the plan.

Superintendent Michael Grego said the principal and staff would be chosen based on typical recruiting and hiring processes. The district would work with the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association to identify teachers interested both in technology and starting a new school, Grego said.

As for the facilities, director of operations Michael Bessette said they needed only "sprucing up" and provided the first estimates for the renovations.

It would cost $100,000 to restore Gulf Beaches, and another $167,000 to put the kitchen back in service. Some of the renovations include painting to remove graffiti; evaluating the intercom, plumbing, lighting and fire alarm systems; repairing doors and windows; and fixing the school's grounds.

The price tag is a bit higher at Kings Highway, requiring $250,000 to evaluate and clean the school, as well as carpet and tile the classrooms. Another $163,000 would be needed for the kitchen, funded through the food service department. Neither facility has active camera systems, Bessette noted.

Between salaries and new technology equipment, running the schools would cost a bit more. Officials couldn't provide such an estimate Tuesday. Pam Moore, associate superintendent of teaching and learning, said Grego "was very clear this was not a blank check: 'Don't hand us the Lexus model because we'll turn it back around.' "

The district's annual application period for special programs ended last week, and parents will learn how they fared in February. For the first-time, the district would hold a second application period to enroll students in Gulf Beaches and Kings Highway.

Lawrence said his staff would begin planning that period, to begin in mid March, if the board gave him the nod at its Jan. 28 meeting. School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook indicated that all seven members were in favor of moving forward.

Board members even started talking about school names, with Wikle wondering if Kings Highway would be better off named after a veteran educator. Lawrence said there would be fewer bureaucratic hoops if they kept the original names.

Contact Lisa Gartner at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @lisagartner.

Comments
A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

A Florida school shooting suspect charged with terrorism says ‘sorry’ to injured student

The young man in a white jail jumpsuit, handcuffed and shackled, looked past the throng of reporters pointing microphones toward his face, barely opening his mouth as he answered questions."I shot through the door," he said, looking at a female repor...
Published: 04/21/18
After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

After months, no action on Hillsborough’s substitute teacher problem

TAMPA — Confronted in late 2017 with reports of misconduct by substitute teachers hired through a contractor, Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins said he would ask tough questions and demand answers. He had his lawyer, Jeff Gibson, ...
Published: 04/21/18
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Published: 04/20/18
Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

Official: Shotgun in guitar case was used in school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE — A gunman who carried a shotgun in a guitar case opened fire Friday in a Florida high school, wounding one student before he was arrested on a day planned for a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, authorities said. It...
Published: 04/20/18
Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

Eakins: New ‘achievement zone’ would lift struggling schools

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins is preparing to reorganize his cabinet — for the third time since 2015 — in an effort to coordinate programs at the district’s highest-needs schools.In an interview this week, Eakins descr...
Published: 04/20/18
Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

Today: Area high school students to join national walkout in memory of Columbine

High school students from both sides of Tampa Bay will commemorate the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings on Friday, although in very different ways. In St. Petersburg, students from several schools will gather at noon at City Hall f...
Published: 04/20/18
Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Hooper: A tribute to my Godby High School instructors

Every time I see an algebraic formula, Mrs. Watson, Mrs. Landreth and Mrs. McBee flash through my mind.If you say history, I say Mr. Groot and Mrs. Melton. If you say civics, I say Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Hunt.I type using the "home keys" because Mrs....
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teachers’ aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer...
Published: 04/19/18
Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

Pinellas to enlist Sandy Hook group in its quest for safer schools

LARGO — Starting soon, Pinellas County public schools could be using a nationwide violence prevention program founded by families of those killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December 2012.The nonprofit group Sandy Hook Promise, with ...
Published: 04/19/18

Hillsborough targets bilingual teachers’ aides in latest school cuts

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District, with a large and growing population of children from foreign cultures, is reducing the ranks of teacher aides who help them master the English language.Next year’s workforce will have about 164 fewer p...
Published: 04/18/18