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Alumni present plan for school

Alumni of Blake High School, a segregated black school that became a junior high under a 1971 court desegregation order, presented a plan Tuesday night to reopen Blake as an inner-city high school. The proposal, which was praised by School Board members who heard the presentation, resulted from months of public meetings by alumni once divided over the fate of their alma mater.

"Today, black America is dying out, especially in the academic community," said Carolyn Collins, a spokeswoman for the group. "We've given a lot. We do not even have one high school in the black community."

The plan calls for school officials to make Blake a traditional high school with mandatory enrollment for students from surrounding inner-city areas. The school would offer a special magnet program to attract white students from outlying areas.

Collins urged the board to hire a principal who is black, someone with a strong understanding of the community.

School officials in December were thwarted in their attempt to get federal court approval to open a magnet school at Blake. Despite support from more than 300 members of the alumni group, others in the community rejected an arts program.

Tampa lawyer Warren Dawson, who opposes the proposed changes to the existing desegregation plan, filed a motion that prevented the district from applying for a $4-million federal grant to rebuild Blake and establish the arts school.

The proposal presented Tuesday night includes a suggested curriculum of academic classes, African-American history, a multicultural seminar and arts and communications courses. The group also wants the school to offer a full athletics program.

For the past 20 months, school officials have been developing a plan to restructure Hillsborough public schools. The plan would streamline school boundaries, create sixth- through eighth-grade middle schools and abolish single-grade centers.

The plan also calls for as many as 10 inner-city magnet schools, including Blake, that would offer special programs designed to attract suburban students to urban sites.

Beginning Tuesday, the board will start reviewing the plan. On June 25, parents and community members will be allowed to comment on the proposed changes. The board is scheduled to vote July 2 on the plan.