Q & A | Applying for special programs

Time is running out to make Pinellas County school choices

Daniel Mora, 15, from left, Andrew Tran, 13, and Torin Fitzgibbon, 14, transport a mannequin to a mock ambulance while participating in Randy Bacher’s Emergency Planning and Response class at Pinellas Park High School recently.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Daniel Mora, 15, from left, Andrew Tran, 13, and Torin Fitzgibbon, 14, transport a mannequin to a mock ambulance while participating in Randy Bacher’s Emergency Planning and Response class at Pinellas Park High School recently.

Every year around this time, Pinellas County Schools invites families to apply for programs that go beyond what is offered at regular zoned schools. The application period ends Friday. New this year: Applications must be filled out online. Here are some questions and answers to help you navigate the application period:

What is the purpose of the application period?

This is the time when Pinellas families can apply to get into a school with special programs their regular zoned schools do not offer. These programs come in many forms: fundamental schools, magnet schools, magnet programs housed within regular schools, "area magnets," high school career academies and high school centers of excellence. Unlike zoned schools, these programs are open to students throughout the county or a large area of the county.

When can I apply to a special program?

Through Friday.

How do I find out about all these programs?

By consulting the St. Petersburg Times' special section "School Search" (go to links.tampabay.com) or the district's 2010-11 Program Guide, which is available at any school or at pcsb.org. Go to the box titled "pcsNEWS" and click on the link to the guide.

How do I apply?

All applications must be completed online, a change this year. Parents must obtain a ParentCONNECTxp ID and password to apply. You can get the ID and password from any school, but be sure to bring a photo ID with you. You only need one ID and password per family. Once you have the user ID and password, use the computer at the school or your home computer to log on to pcsb.org. Click on the green "Student Reservation System" button on the right and follow the instructions. Many middle and high school programs have eligibility criteria and require students to submit additional documentation by Feb. 1. For a list of schools requiring documents, consult the district's Program Guide.

Can I apply to more than one program?

Yes.

Are applications prioritized based on when they were submitted?

No. All applications submitted by Friday's deadline are considered equally.

How do I know if my child is accepted to a special program?

You MUST log in to the student reservation system from March 1 to 8 to see if your child is accepted into the programs to which you applied. Your selection must be made by March 8. You won't receive anything in the mail.

What do I do if my child is invited to more than one program?

You may choose only one program. Once you've selected a school, your child's name will automatically be erased from other lists, including waiting lists.

My child did not get invited to a program, but landed on several waiting lists. What do I do?

If your child is on a waiting list, there is no need to take action. Your child will stay on the list until you accept an invitation to a program. Once you accept the invitation, your child's name will be erased from the other lists. Waiting lists for elementary and middle school programs stay in place for the entire 2010-11 school year. Waiting lists for high school programs expire on the 11th day of the second semester.

Does my child lose their current seat by applying?

No. Only if you accept an invitation.

What if I don't have a computer or access to one?

Parents may go to any school, public library, the Title I parent resource center and student assignment office to use a computer to apply online. The instructions/application are in both English and Spanish. The office also has a Spanish-speaking staff member who can assist Spanish-speaking parents

Why do we have special programs?

Special programs are a legacy of the desegregation era and were designed to attract white families to schools in black neighborhoods. That's why many of these programs are in south Pinellas County, where most of the county's black population lives. Since formal desegregation efforts were phased out, district officials see special programs as a way to retain racial diversity at some schools, but also as a way to give families a wider array of school choices.

Times staff

Time is running out to make Pinellas County school choices 01/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2010 5:39pm]

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