District officials report that things are running smoothly as the choice application period enters its fourth week. Traffic remains steady at the two Family Education and Information Centers, which are seeing a combination of families securing seats for the current school year, parents of current students who are dropping off choice applications, and parents who are new to the district and are registering their children for the 2005-06 school year.
Families are taking advantage of all their options for applying to choice attendance area schools: in person, by mail, by fax, by phone and via the Internet. The automated phone system for applying to countywide magnet, fundamental and career academy programs also has been busy.
And on that matter _ don't hang up before you get a confirmation number. That's easy to forget if you don't listen to all the instructions given by the automated phone system.
That's a point choice communications director Andrea Zahn would like to make to those submitting choice attendance applications and countywide applications by phone.
"Many parents are calling us and saying, "I didn't get my confirmation number,' " Zahn said. "Once they have made their choices and they go to Option 3 and listen to the phone system reviewing the selections they have made, they must go to Option 4, which says, "Press the star key to receive your confirmation number.' I think what they may be doing is listening to their selections and saying, "Oh, they got it right,' without going to Option 4."
Once the parent has hung up, Zahn explained, he or she cannot call back and get the confirmation number. While parents can feel assured that their choices have been recorded correctly if they hear their selections repeated to them when they go to Option 3, they must immediately go to Option 4 to get the confirmation number.
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READER QUESTION OF THE WEEK: A private school parent who has lived in his home for 16 years e-mailed us to say he thinks it's unfair that if his children choose to attend a public school at some point, they won't have grandfathering privileges into a particular school, as other families who have lived in the district prior to June 2001 have.
THE RESPONSE FROM THE CHOICE OFFICE: The important thing to remember about the eligibility status for grandfathering is that you have to have been enrolled in a Pinellas County school on June 6, 2001, and continued to attend what would have been your zoned school. Extended grandfathering has a two-part criteria. Even though the parent has fulfilled the requirement of having lived in his house on that date, his child would not have been enrolled in what would have been the zoned school.
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DATE CHANGES: Two schools have had to change their Discovery Night dates because of Hurricane Ivan.
+ The Discovery Night for Gibbs High School and its two magnet programs, the Pinellas County Center for the Arts and the Business, Economics, Technology Academy, will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 13. The school is at 850 34th St. S in St. Petersburg.
+ Oldsmar Elementary's Discovery Night will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 5. The school is at 302 W Dartmouth Ave.
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OTHER IMPORTANT DATES: The community information meeting originally scheduled for Sept. 13 at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at the school, 6410 118th Ave. N, Largo.
Families will have the option to register their children and make choice attendance area school selections at several satellite centers from 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in October.
Oct. 5, 12, 19 and 26: Palm Harbor Elementary, 415 15th St.; High Point Elementary, 6033 150th Ave. N, Clearwater; and Blanton Elementary, 6400 54th Ave. N, St. Petersburg.
Oct. 6, 13, 20 and 27: Eisenhower Elementary, 2800 Drew St., Clearwater; 9099 Walsingham Road, Largo; and Bay Point Elementary, 5800 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg.
_ Send questions about choice to Donna Winchester, and please indicate whether your name can be used in the column. E-mail winchestersptimes.com. Write to St. Petersburg Times newsroom, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL, 33731. Or fax (727) 893-8675.
Puzzled about picking a school for your child? Check out strategies, details about kinds of schools, test scores and how to understand them, tales of those who have searched before and much more at www.sptimes.com/schoolsearch.