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Q&A

Q. Are any new schools opening?

A. No, but students at Perkins Elementary in St. Petersburg will move into new buildings on the same site. Because of its new design, the school has a new address, 2205 18th Ave S.

Q. What about new programs?

A. Three new magnet programs begin this year. Students applied for seats through a lottery held last fall, except for elementary and middle school students who live in the schools' attendance zones. For information about magnet programs, call 588-6432.

The three new programs are in St. Petersburg.

Melrose Elementary, 1752 13th Ave. S, becomes a magnet school, the Center for Communication and Mass Media.

The Pinellas Academy for the Technical Arts opens at the Pinellas Technical Education Center, 901 34th St. S, across 34th Street S from Gibbs High School. The academy is for high school students and is considered part of Gibbs.

John Hopkins Middle School, 701 16th St. S, adds a communications program to its art and international studies programs.

Q. What is the biggest change for high school students?

A. They will be waking up earlier. All 16 high schools will start classes at 7:20 a.m., 10 minutes earlier than last year.

The School Board approved the change in May after transportation officials said bus drivers need more time to finish their routes. After they drop off high school students, they also must transport middle and elementary students.

Q. Does my child's school have a uniform policy?

A. Starkey Elementary in Largo will introduce a mandatory uniform policy this year. That brings to six the number of schools with mandatory uniforms, including Azalea, Bear Creek, Blanton, Rawlings and Sexton elementary schools.

Largo Middle School and Woodlawn Elementary in St. Petersburg are introducing voluntary uniform policies. Others with voluntary policies are Anona, Bay Point, Bay Vista, Campbell Park, Kings Highway, Lakewood, Mount Vernon, Sawgrass Lake, Sutherland and Tarpon Springs Fundamental elementary schools.

Q. Are there any changes to school attendance zones?

A. Under the federal desegregation order that governs the school district, a new group of white elementary students must be bused every two years to schools in predominantly black neighborhoods in St. Petersburg. A new two-year cycle begins this year.

Elementary schools whose enrollments will change this fall: Campbell Park, North Shore, Rio Vista, Shore Acres, Woodlawn, Fairmont Park, Seminole, Gulfport, Lealman, Bardmoor, Melrose, Rawlings, Sawgrass Lake, Sexton, Westgate, Lakewood, Clearview, Bear Creek, Blanton, Cross Bayou, Lakewood, Maximo, Pinellas Central and Skyview.

Also, the majority of black students who live north of Ulmerton Road and previously have been bused to distant schools have the choice this year to attend schools closer to home. Most of those students live in the North Greenwood area of Clearwater. Others live in the Ridgecrest area of Largo and in Tarpon Springs.

To find out if your child is affected by the changes, first contact your current school. If you need more assistance, call 588-6210.

Q. I heard there are plans to end busing for desegregation. Where do those plans stand?

A. Attorneys for the School Board and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund are attempting to negotiate an end to busing for desegregation. A final agreement is not expected until December, at the earliest. Any changes probably will be phased in over several years and are not likely to affect students until August 2003.

Q. How does the state's new A+ Education Plan affect my child?

A. The A through F grades assigned to all schools this summer have left bruised egos among teachers and administrators, but they won't mean much for individual students. That is because no Pinellas schools received F grades. Schools that receive F grades two years in a row must allow students to transfer to private schools with taxpayer-financed vouchers.

In February, however, students in fourth, fifth, eighth and 10th grades will take state tests to determine the grades their schools receive next summer.

Q. What should students bring on the first day of school?

A. Teachers will send home or hand out supply lists to all of their students. To prevent more than one shopping trip, parents should wait until they receive a list. Here are some examples of basic supplies needed for each school level. Elementary school students should bring pencils, glue, scissors, notebooks, rulers, folders and book bags. Middle school: pencils, paper, notebook or folder, but no book bags until lockers are assigned. High school: pens, pencils and paper.

Q. What should students expect on the first day?

A. All schools will be running on regular schedule. The teachers and staff will be helping students get acquainted with the rules and facilities. Elementary and middle school teachers will get to know the students and also review the code of conduct.

Q. How can I make sure my child gets on the right bus and to school safely on the first day?

A. Students should be at their assigned bus stops at least five to 10 minutes before the scheduled pickup time. Make sure they don't walk alone to the bus stop and remind them to wait on the sidewalk until the bus arrives. Also, tell students to remain quiet and seated while traveling on the bus.

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