The clock is ticking for parents who want their children to attend a magnet, fundamental or high school career academy program next year but have not applied.
The automated phone system, which clicked on at 12:01 a.m. Feb. 1, will shut down at midnight Friday. Families who haven't made the call by then will have to wait until next year to apply for the 2007-08 school year, choice spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said.
The process has gone smoothly so far, Zahn said. The most frequently asked question concerns the number of seats a child can apply for.
"Some people think that the number affects the outcome," Zahn said. It doesn't. It's a random process. The number for which you apply does not affect the number of invitations you could receive."
So far, more than 6,800 applications have been placed for about 3,000 seats. All of the applications will become part of a computer lottery that the district will conduct at some point after Friday and before March 10, the first day parents will be able to call to see if they've received an invitation.
While most parents are familiar with magnet and fundamental programs, many are not as familiar with high school career academies, Zahn said. These programs operate within high schools and provide all the courses necessary for a standard diploma while training students in selected fields.
About 25 students are in each career program at each grade level. This group of students stays together with the same teachers for four years. Academy teachers work together as a team to coordinate teaching in different subjects, stay in touch with parents, and involve employers who support the academies by providing mentors and internships.
Many academy graduates go to college, but others enter the work force after graduation or refine their skills at Pinellas Technical Education Centers. The 10 programs, five of which will be new next year, are open to students countywide.
East Lake High will launch an academy of engineering. Lakewood High in St. Petersburg will start an academy for environmental technology and marine science. Northeast High in St. Petersburg will add an academy of finance and one for information technology. Tarpon Springs High will start the academy of culinary hospitality.
Existing academies are one for culture and commerce at Clearwater High; the academy of graphic arts at Dixie Hollins High in St. Petersburg; the architectural design and electrical technologies academy at Dunedin High; the automotive academy at Northeast High; and the academy of veterinary science at Tarpon Springs High.
For more information about career academies, go to:
Coming next week: You've applied for a magnet, fundamental or career academy program. Now what?
HOW TO APPLY
How to apply to a countywide magnet, fundamental or career academy program:
Applications are made by phone only. The number, (727) 501-0871, will operate 24 hours a day until midnight Friday. You will need your child's 10-digit ID number and the six-digit "program ID" number for each school to which you want to apply. Refer to the district's Choice Information Guide, available at any school, public library or Family Education and Information Center, or online at www.pinellaschoice.org, for details.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Since you have nothing to lose by applying to magnet, fundamental or career academy programs, you might as well take advantage of your opportunity to do so while there's still time. Students who already attend one of these countywide programs lose their seat if they apply to an attendance area school, but there is no penalty for children in attendance area schools who want to try for a magnet, fundamental or career academy seat. And because invitations to countywide programs are not awarded first-come, first-served, parents who call today have the same chance of getting an invitation as those who called at 12:01 a.m. on the first day of the application period. Just make sure you deliver any eligibility criteria like report cards and test scores to the schools by the end of the school day on Feb. 20. Failure to do so will void your application.