Thursday, October 18, 2018
Education

Two Pasco middle schools to add STEM magnets

Pasco County middle school students will have more academic choices next year, as the school district launches two new STEM magnet programs.

Bayonet Point Middle School, currently under major renovations, will reopen in the fall as a magnet focusing on science, technology, engineering and math. To maintain equity of programs across the county, the district will create a similar magnet at Centennial Middle School in Dade City.

Each school will continue to serve children living in their existing attendance zones. Students living outside the boundaries would have more access to the schools, including free transportation, under the new model.

Centennial, where enrollment has been at or near capacity for years, will get portable classrooms and additional teaching positions to make the move. Bayonet Point, where enrollment sits below 60 percent of its capacity, will not have that need.

If students assigned to the schools don't want to attend there, the district will work with their families to place them elsewhere. Teachers who aren't interested in the change also can request transfers.

The goal, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said, is to offer more traditional school options that meet student needs and interests. Bayonet Point and Centennial adopted a STEM theme after learning through a parent survey that STEM and performing/visual arts have the most support across the county.

The schools did not add arts to the model because there was insufficient time to prepare an arts-infused science and math curriculum, Cobbe said.

Centennial principal Rick Saylor said he had been looking for a new academic approach for his students. Nearby schools have added new initiatives in recent years, such as the advanced pre-Cambridge Programme at Pasco Middle, and he wanted to "give something to my students that could help them be competitive."

The hands-on model in use at Schrader Elementary, which feeds into Bayonet Point, came up as an idea that both school leaders wanted to adopt.

Saylor expressed excitement at the possibilities of the concept, called learning active, technology-infused classroom.

"This gives the kids a school with a focus that will help them to explore," he said.

At the same time, he acknowledged, teachers will need a lot of training to make it successful. He and Bayonet Point principal Shelley Carrino plan to collaborate throughout the effort, so they can work through obstacles and find solutions effectively.

District officials are still working out some of the details for the programs, including the specific curriculum, as well as transportation options. The costs, including added technology, are not fully detailed, either.

Application preferences also remain under consideration. When Sanders Memorial Elementary School in Land O'Lakes opened as Pasco's first magnet this year, it gave priority to children leaving overcrowded nearby schools.

Cobbe said that could happen for these two schools, as well. That might mean that students attending overcrowded Weightman and Long middle schools get extra points in the lottery to attend Centennial, while those in River Ridge, Chasco and Seven Springs middle get priority for Bayonet Point.

Superintendent Kurt Browning has said he expects to continue adding more magnet programs to other schools in coming years.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. Follow @JeffSolochek.

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