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Magnet program may be moving

One magnet program may be moving its attractive powers to another Pinellas school in hopes of enticing more students to attend that school.

The Early Graduation Option magnet program would move to Osceola High School in Seminole beginning in the fall of 1996 if the School Board approves it Tuesday. The program, which gives students the chance to complete their high school diploma in three years instead of four, has been housed at Gulfport's Boca Ciega High School since it began about nine years ago.

"We're moving it because there're two magnets at Boca Ciega High School," said Linda Benware, coordinator of magnet/choice programs for the Pinellas School District. "Secondly . . . Osceola's enrollment is down."

The move, Benware said, should benefit both schools. It will increase Osceola's enrollment and make room for more students at the medical magnet at Boca Ciega.

The Center for Wellness and Medical Professions, which opened a freshman class this past year at Boca Ciega, will keep adding classes until it becomes a full four-year program.

This year, the medical magnet had 134 students. Competition was heavy for those seats: 232 students applied for admission. That trend is likely to continue as students realize jobs in medically related fields will be in the top 10 for demand by 2000, according to district documents. By moving the EGO program, Boca Ciega will be able to make room for students in the medical magnet.

The population at Osceola is declining, according to the memo from Superintendent Howard Hinesley that asks board members to move the EGO program.

Osceola principal Douglas Smith said he has no idea why the enrollment has been declining for nearly five years. Neither the school zone nor anything else has changed, he said.

Because of the lowered enrollment, it can be difficult to offer many electives because there may not be enough students to take advantage of them. The EGO program had 132 students this past year, who must complete the traditional credits for a high school diploma, so having those students take regular classes as well as electives at Osceola will help keep that school's academic offerings more stable.

If the board grants Hinesley's request, the move will not take place all at once, Benware said. The first EGO students would not enter Osceola until the 1996-97 school year and those would be freshmen. Upperclassmen would have the option of remaining at Boca Ciega or transferring to Osceola. The result would be that Osceola would not have the full program immediately.

Bettie-Love Downs, a Boca Ciega teacher and co-chairwoman of the school advisory council, said the group discussed the proposal at its February meeting and understands the need for the move, so there are no hard feelings. However, there are some sad feelings, she said.

"We'll miss them," Downs said. "Every teacher will miss those kids; they're great kids."