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Site for school is studied

If a task force recommendation becomes reality, a fundamental middle school will be established on the Dunedin Highland Middle School campus next year.

The task force, created to study the feasibility of a fundamental school in north Pinellas County, made its suggestion to school Superintendent Howard Hinesley on Friday.

Although Hinesley said he doesn't like the Dunedin site because of the difficulties relocating the pupils who would be displaced, he told task force chairman Bill Williamson to continue the study.

Fundamental schools emphasize discipline and parental involvement. Parents are expected to attend all parent-teacher meetings, for example, including all PTA meetings. They also must provide the pupils' transportation.

Pupils are in a more disciplined environment and homework is mandatory and given often.

Williamson said the next phase will be a survey sent to parents of children in grades 4-7, living north of Ulmerton Road. He said the study will be completed next month and presented to the School Board.

According to Williamson, the fundamental program at Dunedin would be "a school within a school," with 420 pupils in the fundamental school and about 700 in the regular middle school.

Dunedin Highland Middle is on the Clearwater-Dunedin border, at the corner of Union and Patricia avenues. (Patricia becomes Highland Avenue in Clearwater).

Any pupil can apply for a fundamental school, regardless of zone. Students are chosen at random by computer. Students attending a fundamental elementary school may automatically enroll in a fundamental middle school.

The north county site would be the second fundamental middle school. Southside Fundamental Middle is the only one now, in southern St. Petersburg.

There are four fundamental elementary schools _ at Childs Park and Lakeview in St. Petersburg, Curtis in Clearwater and Tarpon Springs.

Few of the North Pinellas fundamental elementary pupils move on to Southside. Of the school's 571 students, only 29 come from north of Ulmerton Road.

Last spring, a group of parents from Tarpon Springs and Curtis schools requested a fundamental middle school in North Pinellas. The School Board told Hinesley to study the issue.

Williamson said alternatives to Dunedin were considered and rejected by the task force, including building a new school. There would be no state funds for such a school, he said.

Moving into the Clearwater Discovery School and putting the Discovery program elsewhere was suggested. But, Williamson said, that was too disruptive for the Discovery program.

Carwise Middle School, which will open next year in Palm Harbor, was rejected because it is too far north. Williamson said location is a factor because parents have to drive their children.

The other sites considered and rejected were Safety Harbor (too far east), Oak Grove (not enough room) and Kennedy Middle (undergoing a prolonged construction project).

"Dunedin Middle School provides the most central location for parents from north county to Ulmerton Road," Williamson wrote in his memo to Hinesley.

Hinesley wrote back that he is concerned about "major rezoning."

According to Williamson, some pupils targeted for Dunedin Middle would be bumped out by fundamental school children. Those displaced pupils will move to other middle schools, displacing pupils there.

Hinesley said he doesn't like such a scenario. Still, in his memo to Williamson, he wrote "However, I am supportive of a fundamental middle school in North Pinellas if there is sufficient population who will attend the program and if the North Pinellas community is supportive."

Williamson said the survey will help find out whether the community is supportive.