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Summer school is music to their ears

The School Board will vote on an alliance with Largo Cultural Center, allowing students to earn summer credits with work on West Side Story.

The Pinellas County School Board and the Largo Cultural Center are hoping to forge a partnership that will allow students to get summer credit for putting together the classic musical West Side Story.

On Tuesday, the School Board will vote on allowing a drama teacher to help about 40 students learn what it takes to produce and act in a musical.

"I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to work side-by-side with those in the field," said Holly Stevens, manager of the cultural center.

"To give them an inkling of what it would be like once they're out of high school."

Students will be awarded class credit.

The School Board and the cultural center began discussions about joining forces about six months ago, said Stevens.

The center went ahead with casting parts for the parts of Tony, Maria and the rest of the Jets and Sharks, all characters in the play, believing a formal proposal would not be ready for the School Board's review this year.

School Board officials called the partnership a "positive situation."

"Any time we can forge partnerships with others outside the school system that benefits students, that's a plus," said Judith Westfall, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The cultural center has budgeted $25,000 for the teacher and production costs.

Clearwater High School drama director Joy Roche will be the teacher, said Stevens.

Students from schools across Pinellas County were chosen for the musical. Their names can be viewed on the Internet at this Web site:

If School Board members endorse the plan, classes will begin May 29, with rehearsals being held during weekday evenings and Sunday afternoons.

Performances would start on July 12 and end July 30.