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Parents have a bit longer to choose

Hoping for a last-minute burst in enrollment, Hillsborough County school officials are offering extended hours this week for families submitting applications for the choice plan or magnet schools.

Friday is the deadline.

Parents can apply to send children to schools outside their neighborhoods for the 2005-2006 school year by phone or in person at five Parent Resource Centers, which will be open until 7 p.m. daily.

They can apply in person at the School Administrative Center at 901 E Kennedy Blvd. from 8 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. through Thursday and until 7 p.m. Friday. They can apply by phone between 8 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. at 272-4692.

Or, through midnight Friday, parents can apply online at To do so, they will need a proper student identification number and password.

Interest in the choice plan has been minimal. As of Tuesday, only 783 applications were in, compared to 6,488 last year. About 46,000 students are eligible.

Many parents called school district offices Tuesday, said Jeri Nelson, choice communication specialist.

"With the deadline, we're more than likely to get more applications," she said. "We're very, very busy."

Next year will be the second of the choice plan, which offers more school options on a space-available basis. Magnet schools, which provide programs such as performing arts and technology, are available to children countywide.

Children entering kindergarten, sixth grade or ninth grade next school year who live in suburban areas are eligible for choice, as are children of any grade level in urban zones. Friday's deadline applies to children entering grades 1 through 12.

Parents of upcoming kindergarteners can apply for choice through April 18 at all elementary schools and Parent Resource Centers. For those interested in participating in an early lottery, applications must be returned by Jan. 18. Parents will be notified beginning Jan. 31.

Parent Resource Centers are at: Pierce Middle School, 5511 N Hesperides Ave. in Tampa; Bowers-Whitley Career Center, 13609 N 22nd St. Room 404 in Tampa; Kimbell Full Service Center 2100 E 26th Ave. in Tampa; Nifong Building, 703 N Thomas St. in Plant City; and Robles Elementary School, 4405 E Sligh Ave. in Tampa.