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Schools plan to cut down on dropouts

The Pinellas County school district plans to create a number of schools in the next two years that will work to prevent students in grades four through 12 from becoming dropouts. The recommendations the School Board is expected to accept next week range from separate schools for fourth- and fifth-graders who are potential dropouts to a program for child-care assistance so teen-age mothers can finish high school.

"We have some good things in place. We just need to expand," said Judy Hoban, who works in the school system's dropout prevention area. "We need to use the latest research on programs that are successful."

The new programs are expected to generate enough money from the state to support them without taking money from other programs.

A committee studying alternative education programs had recommended a separate high school for students at risk of dropping out.

Superintendent Scott Rose is recommending phasing in the high school program. Next year, the Goals dropout prevention program at the two vocational centers would add 72 students at risk of dropping out and 72 teen-age parents and their children.

The Seminole Vocational Education Center would add a program for 72 students also. Then in 1991-92, the centers would add another 180 students and 36 toddlers.

The middle school recommendation calls for the School Board to close St. Petersburg Alternative and Robinson Alternative schools in Clearwater. Those programs, now voluntary, would be replaced by disciplinary-referral schools where assignment would be involuntary.

The North Pinellas site for the program would be in the former Safety Harbor Exceptional Center. The school district would lease a site for the program in South Pinellas.

The district also would revise the programs at Clearwater Comprehensive Middle and Lealman Comprehensive Middle in St. Petersburg. The new programs would emphasize career opportunities, instruction to help students catch up with others of their ages and improvement of self-esteem.

Each would have 420 students.

The elementary recommendations call for the old alternative schools in St. Petersburg and Clearwater to become schools for 180 fourth- and fifth-graders who are likely to drop out of school later if they don't get help.

It will concentrate on pupils who are older than their classmates and try to get them caught up with others their age.

"The latest retention studies say that even students who have been retained and are successful, when they reach 16, they leave," Ms. Hoban said. "Being 16 and being older than their peers is more devastating to them than anything in their lives."