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Public schools: Application for special programs begins Wednesday

Makayla Cole, 5, and her mother, Anita Cole, attend a discovery night at Jamerson Elementary in St. Petersburg in December.

LARA CERRI | Times

Makayla Cole, 5, and her mother, Anita Cole, attend a discovery night at Jamerson Elementary in St. Petersburg in December.

In three days, the Pinellas County school system will start accepting applications for special programs for the 2014-15 academic year. The offerings include magnet, fundamental and high school career programs. The district refers to these as "application programs."

This deadline does not apply to those who plan to attend their regular zoned school next year. Students already registered with the district automatically receive notices about zoned school assignments. New zoned school students, including incoming kindergarten students, can register this spring.

For more information about application programs, consult this guide or go to pcsb.org and download a copy of the District Application Programs Guide for 2014-15.

Before you go online to apply

• Have or get a User ID and password. If you misplaced yours or don't have them yet, you can get them at any nearby school with a photo ID. Only one User ID and password are needed per family.

Apply online between Wednesday and Jan. 17

• Go to pcsb.org and log on to the Student Reservation System, known as SRS, using your User ID and password.

• Choose up to five programs and rank them in order of preference. You can do this any time during the application period; your odds are not affected whether you go early or later.

• All high school magnet programs — and some middle school magnet programs — have entrance criteria. (See the District Application Programs Guide at pcsb.org for details.) Deliver all documentation of eligibility by the close of the school day on Jan. 17.

Check status/accept invitation

• Log on to the Student Reservation System (SRS) between Feb. 6-13 to accept one program invitation. If you get an invitation and do not accept during this time, your application becomes invalid.

• Once a program's invitation is accepted, the student's name will be removed from all other lists (except the Center for Gifted Studies).

• Families can change their selection before Feb. 13.

• You don't need to accept waiting list spots.

Avoid these mistakes

• Every year, some families apply for a program but fail to check later to see if they've been invited to one. Or they check back but fail to accept the invitation. It's a two-step process — apply, then accept.

• Students in "feeder" schools get preferred consideration to attend the school at the next level — such as a fundamental elementary student applying to get into a fundamental middle school. But the preference is not automatic. You still have to apply.

• Hundreds of students apply to programs for which they are not eligible. Check first to see if you're eligible. A call to the school will give you the answer.

Get answers

Applying for a special program can get tricky. How does the lottery work? What are the rules if my child lands on a waiting list? The district lays it all out in a manual called Procedures for District Application Programs. To find it, visit pcsb.org. In the middle of the home page, under the heading "Latest News," click on "Explore magnet, fundamental, and career-focused District Application Programs." On the next page, click on the link for "District Application Programs Website." On the next page, near the bottom, click on the title of the manual.

Glossary

Application areas: Although most programs are open to students who live anywhere in the county, several are limited to students in their designated application areas. Application areas are defined by a grouping of middle school and high school zones. Consult the District Application Programs Guide at pcsb.org for a listing of the areas.

Career academies: These are four-year programs designed to blend a student's required academic courses with the career technical program of the academy.

Centers of excellence: Some programs allow students to earn high school credit, college credit, industry certification and become scholarship eligible all at the same time. See the District Application Programs Guide at pcsb.org for a listing of the centers.

Designated career technical programs: These have been approved by the Pinellas County School Board for open application within their designated application areas.

Fundamental programs: These programs provide a structured environment and a "back-to-basics" approach that includes daily homework, stricter dress and required parental involvement. Most fundamentals encompass entire schools. Fundamental programs at Boca Ciega and Dunedin high schools are "schools within schools."

Magnet programs: These are programs centered around themes such as visual and performing arts, advanced technologies, wellness and medicine, sciences and technology. Many magnet programs have eligibility criteria.

Zoned schools: These are designated schools for each student in the district based on the residence of the student. Students rising from elementary to middle school or from middle to high school will automatically be sent a notice of their zoned school assignment. Incoming kindergarteners and other new students must register with the district to be assigned a zoned school.

Transportation: Arterial bus service (which operates on main roads with a limited number of stops) is available for students in district application programs who live more than 2 miles from their school, with the following exceptions:

• Parents of countywide elementary fundamental and most middle fundamental school students must provide transportation for their children.

• Arterial bus transportation is provided for Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle.

• Students entering the fundamental programs at Osceola, Boca Ciega and Dunedin high schools will receive arterial transportation within the boundaries of the high school application areas.

Public schools: Application for special programs begins Wednesday 01/03/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 3, 2014 3:39pm]

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