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Choice panel will stick to desegregation

A task force cleared a major hurdle Wednesday on its way to developing a new plan for assigning kids to schools.

In an 18-4 vote, the Controlled Choice task force decided the racial makeup of Pinellas public schools should be determined by a federal court order that established desegregation in the county.

Under the 26-year-old order, each school can have a student population of up to 30 percent black. Garnelle Jenkins, head of the St. Petersburg NAACP, praised the decision, saying her organization supports using the court order to determine the racial makeup of schools.

Controlled choice would allow parents within a broad geographical area to choose which school their children would attend. The task force is scheduled to deliver a plan to the Pinellas School Board on May 27.