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  1. Education

Some Pasco schools are more popular than others for parental choice

Published May 20

Back before the class size amendment really took hold, Pasco County parents could count on nearly blanket approval of their requests to transfer their children to different district schools.

Since then, the approval rate has been closer to 35 percent, with about half of the campuses frozen from accepting choice applicants because they're at 90 percent of capacity or above.

This spring, new applicants weren't taken at 42 schools. But of those schools open to choice, some clear favorites emerged in the data recently released by the district. (We'll skip the pure magnets of Sanders Elementary and Krinn Technical, where every student is a transfer-in.)

The school accepting the most requests was Land O' Lakes High, with 129. Right behind it were Pasco Middle with 100, San Antonio Elementary at 87 and Pasco High at 81. What's notable about these campuses is that each offers a specialty program — International Baccalaureate at Land O' Lakes and Cambridge at the other three — that draws high interest.

Also notable, is that Gulf High provides IB and had more students leaving through choice (57) than arriving (43). The same is true for Anclote High, which hosts the Cambridge program and saw 59 students transfer out compared to 46 entering.

Other schools with higher levels of choice out included Cypress Creek Middle-High at 65, Hudson High at 58 and Connerton Elementary at 55. (Connerton sits near the Sanders magnet, and its students are given priority into Sanders as a way to keep Connerton's numbers in check.)

Stewart Middle, which is relatively close to Pasco Middle, had 51 students leave compared to just nine who transferred in.

The most lopsided movement out came at West Zephyrhills Elementary, with 20 out and zero in, and Chasco Middle, with 35 out and three in.

Since those numbers were reported, the district has held two more rounds of applications — one for open enrollment and one for magnets.

On the magnet side, 178 more moves were approved, and 163 were denied. The additional open enrollment figures were not yet available.

District officials have been analyzing the numbers as they continue to seek ways to make schools attractive to families and children. Their plans to add new programs and magnets on the west side were delayed when the School Board rejected a proposal to close two elementary schools and reallocate resources.

SCHOOL BELLS: As some Florida school districts, including neighboring Hillsborough County, have looked to later starts for high school classes, several Pasco County campuses are moving in the other direction.

The changes proposed to start school earlier at nine Pasco schools shift the start times by 10 minutes at most. But anyone living with a teenager can testify that getting them up and out the door in the predawn hours is a push, and minutes matter.

Students at Sunlake High and Achieve Center of Pasco are likely to feel the pinch the most, as they have been recommended to begin school at 7:20 a.m. — five minutes earlier for the Seahawks, and 10 minutes sooner for the Achieve Center. Sunlake also would end the day three minutes later, at 1:54 p.m.

Sunlake officials requested the new times to ensure students receive enough instructional hours during the year, while the Achieve Center wanted more time for students to arrive and transition into classes each morning.

Other schools facing earlier bells each morning include Wesley Chapel High (4 minutes earlier), Wiregrass Ranch High (1 minute), Mitchell High (1 minute), Hudson Middle (5 minutes), Stewart Middle (5 minutes), Chasco Middle (1 minute) and James Irvin Education Center (5 minutes).

Land O' Lakes High would be the only school to shift its start time later, by 5 minutes to 7:30 a.m., as time added for passing periods during construction no longer is needed.

All other schools are recommended to keep their bell schedules unchanged.

CHARTER CLOSING: Pasco MYcroSchool, a computer-based charter school aimed at helping potential high school dropouts, will shut its doors after classes end this spring.

The school's board volunteered to give up its charter after Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning, whose district sponsors the charter, took steps in February to shut down MYcroSchool amid concerns it failed to achieve adequate student performance and it recklessly used taxpayer funds.

Charter schools are publicly funded, but privately operated.

After Browning announced his plan, the charter school's leadership told the district it would appeal to the state. Shortly afterward, it withdrew its appeal and abandoned its challenge of the district action.

The school notified district officials in April that they would voluntarily close at the end of the fiscal year. The School Board only had to take the ministerial act of accepting the action and canceling the charter.

District records show MYcroSchool had enrolled 95 students, primarily in grades 10 through 12, in the period ending April 1.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at jsolochek@tampabay.com. Follow @jeffsolochek.

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