As the choice application period reaches the halfway point _ it ends Nov. 1 _ district officials are expressing concern that parents whose children will enter kindergarten in August may not realize this call is for them.
Families with 4-year-olds may be thinking school is still a long way off, said choice communications director Andrea Zahn. But if parents want children who will turn 5 before Sept. 1 to attend a Pinellas County public school next year, now is the time to register them and choose a school.
The choice office will redouble efforts to reach incoming kindergarteners in the next several weeks. Among the locations targeted will be Head Start centers and prekindergarten exceptional student education sites.
"We're looking for about 8,000 kindergarteners," Zahn said. "The longer they wait, the more crowded it becomes."
One way to beat the crowds, Zahn said, is for parents to take advantage of several satellite locations that will operate at different schools during October. Families can visit these sites from 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays:
+ Palm Harbor Elementary, 415 15th St.
+ High Point Elementary, 6033 150th Ave. N, Clearwater
+ Blanton Elementary, 6400 54th Ave. N, St. Petersburg
They can visit these sites from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays:
+ Eisenhower Elementary, 2800 Drew St., Clearwater
+ Walsingham Elementary, 9099 Walsingham Road, Largo
+ Bay Point Elementary, 5800 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg.
Reader question of the week: A mom whose two children attend different fundamental schools _ one is a kindergartener at Pasadena Fundamental and one is a second-grader at Bay Vista Fundamental _ would like them to attend the same school. She is considering completing applications for each child to attend the opposite school to see if that might increase their chances of ending up together. Among her concerns is whether they will lose their current seats in the process.
The response from the choice office: First of all, children in countywide magnets, fundamentals or career academy programs only lose their current seats if they apply to an attendance area school or if they accept an invitation to another countywide program. They do not jeopardize their seats by applying to another countywide program.
Whether or not the mom's plan will reap the desired result depends on how many seats are available at each school. Incoming kindergarteners, of course, have the best chance of securing a seat because no other children are in line for those seats besides siblings of children who already attend the school and children of the school's employees.
Generally, there are more seats available at lower grades. It is logical to assume that the younger child would have a better chance of getting a first-grade seat at Bay Vista than the older child would have of getting a third-grade seat at Pasadena Fundamental. But it's possible that a seat could become available at any grade level at any point, so a definite outcome cannot be predicted.
A reminder from the choice office: School tours and discovery nights are a great way for parents to learn more about their options. A complete list of dates and times is available at the choice Web site, www.pinellaschoice.org, and on the Times' School Search Web site, www.sptimes.com/schoolsearch.
_ 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.