Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Education

Proposed charter school wants to lease old North Ward Elementary campus

CLEARWATER — Someone has an eye on Clearwater's favorite little red brick school.

Officials with the Pinellas School of Math and Science, a proposed charter school, last week toured the closed campus of the former North Ward Elementary School and told district leaders they are interested in leasing the facility for up to 15 years.

Michael Bessette, associate superintendent of facilities and operations for the district, said that if it appears likely the Pinellas County School Board will approve the charter school, he will talk with board members about their interest in a possible leasing arrangement.

But there are many issues the board still needs to work out, not the least of which is whether they're ready to lease — and whether they're ready to lease to charter schools.

Though hesitant to sell off their district land holdings in a down market, School Board members said they want to hear more in March from Bessette and superintendent John Stewart about the possibility of leasing.

"What I would like to do is have those buildings occupied," Bessette told board members, "because they're deteriorating and costing us money."

North Ward was a 300-student-capacity school on N Fort Harrison Avenue north of downtown Clearwater. Though parents and alumni fought to keep it open, North Ward was one of several campuses closed in 2009 due to declining district enrollment and funding concerns.

Built in 1915 overlooking Clearwater Harbor, North Ward was appraised last year at up to $1.3 million.

"That is one of the most valuable properties," board member Janet Clark said, adding that she is definitely not ready to sell it now.

Sirin Coskun, a math professor at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, is one of the leaders working on hammering out a charter school agreement with the district.

She told the Tampa Bay Times Tuesday that, at this point, the school hopes to serve about 600 students in grades K-8, with the possibility of expanding to up to 1,000 through 12th grade.

Bessette said, however, that the charter school would have to be much smaller if it planned to fit at the tiny North Ward campus.

"There's no way with class-size (requirements) for that to happen," he said.

The proposed school should not be confused with the Pinellas Academy of Math and Science, which has a board-approved charter and already has a site. Coskun said leaders of her proposed school are considering a name change to avoid mix-ups.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8707. To submit a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Can new family resource center reshape struggling Hernando County school?

Can new family resource center reshape struggling Hernando County school?

State Schools of Hope grant provides after-school and evening classes and services to help students and their families.
Published: 10/16/18

School notes for Oct. 19

School calendar, events, briefs
Published: 10/15/18
How many active shooter drills is too many? Florida schools don’t know either.

How many active shooter drills is too many? Florida schools don’t know either.

As Florida educators work to make schools less vulnerable to attack, a single line in state law is making that job more confusing.The wording, drafted by legislators in the emotion-filled weeks after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas H...
Published: 10/12/18
MSNBC's Katy Tur hosting live panel with USF students during 'Battleground College Tour'

MSNBC's Katy Tur hosting live panel with USF students during 'Battleground College Tour'

MSNBC's Katy Tur will speak to USF students during a live panel in front of USF's Marshall Student Center on Friday from 2 to 3 p.m.
Published: 10/12/18
Pinellas education news: Financial aid, school choice, USF homecoming and more

Pinellas education news: Financial aid, school choice, USF homecoming and more

SPC invites families to learn about college financial aidSt. Petersburg College will host an event to acquaint parents and students with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, a required form for families seeking financial aid for co...
Published: 10/12/18

Berkeley Prep capital campaign reaches $65-million mark

Berkeley Preparatory School has completed one of the largest capital campaign efforts in the country for an independent day school.With more than 250 supporters in attendance at the Power of Community campaign celebration on Oct. 3, the school celebr...
Published: 10/10/18
Andrew Gillum wants to pay starting teachers $50,000. Could that ever happen in Florida?

Andrew Gillum wants to pay starting teachers $50,000. Could that ever happen in Florida?

When Valerie Chuchman moved to Florida from Wisconsin eight years ago, her new principal joked that while she was taking a significant salary cut, she would be repaid in sunshine.Unfortunately, the Riverview High School chemistry teacher said, sunshi...
Published: 10/10/18
Pasco School Board candidates focus on experiences, support in campaign to replace retiring incumbent

Pasco School Board candidates focus on experiences, support in campaign to replace retiring incumbent

One is a teacher. The other is a lawyer and parent. Each believes her experience gives her the edge.
Published: 10/10/18
Sheriff: Officer at Carwise Middle retires amid sexual harassment investigation

Sheriff: Officer at Carwise Middle retires amid sexual harassment investigation

A school resource officer and deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office retired Tuesday amid allegations that he sexually harassed a female employee at Carwise Middle School while on duty.The Sheriff’s Office received a letter on Oct. 1, which...
Published: 10/09/18
Updated: 10/10/18

School Board seeks to protect teachers leading health courses out of field

And Plato Academy Trinity moves into its new buildings.
Published: 10/09/18