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  1. The Education Gradebook

Some Pinellas charter schools have closed, but demand for them remains high

Published Dec. 28, 2016

Families have a range of schooling options, from traditional neighborhood schools, to special programs like magnets, to private schools. Somewhere in between is a hybrid: charter schools.

Publicly funded but privately managed, they've been shaking up Florida's educational landscape for almost two decades.

Charter schools were created to give families an alternative, and are supposed to offer a more innovative curriculum and school setting than public schools.

Sounds perfect, right?

Yes and no.

Those who run charter schools — often for-profit management companies — have free rein to spend public dollars as they see fit. Their oversight and accountability lie mostly with a nonprofit board, not an elected school board directly accountable to the public.

Some charter schools have operated for years without issues, while others have had problems. And 2016 was a particularly rough year in Pinellas County.

Five charter schools shut down during the year — four of them formerly run by Newpoint Education Partners, a management company that was indicted by an Escambia County grand jury in May along with three related entities. The alleged offenses: grand theft, money laundering and aggravated white-collar crime.

The fifth charter school, University Preparatory Academy, received its third consecutive F grade from the state.

And a sixth, Florida Virtual Academy at Pinellas County, is expected to close by the end of the school year for inaccurate reporting and governance violations.

The Pinellas school system has not received any applications for new charter schools for the past two years. Its charter school director, Rick Wolfe, says the market is saturated and families are now left with quality options.

St. Petersburg Collegiate High, for instance, earned the most school grade points of any public school in the county. Meanwhile, demand remains high, with more than 5,700 Pinellas students enrolled in charters.

Pinellas charter schools

Academie Da Vinci

1060 Keene Road, Dunedin; K-5; academiedavinci.org; (727) 298-2778

Alfred Adler Elementary

4515 38th Ave. N, St. Petersburg; K-7; alfredadlerschool.com; (727) 329-9545

Athenian Academy

2289 N Hercules Ave., Clearwater; K-8; athenianacademy.org; (727) 298-2718

Discovery Academy of Science

1380 Pinehurst Road, Dunedin; K-12; discoveryacademy.info; (727) 330-2424

Enterprise High School

2461 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater; 9-12; enterprisehs.org; (727) 474-1237

MYcroSchool Pinellas

840 Third Ave. S, St. Petersburg; 9-12; mycroschool.org; (727) 825-3710

Pinellas Academy of Math and Science

1775 S Highland Ave., Largo; K-8; www.pinellasacademy.com; (727) 330-9449

Pinellas Primary Academy, K-3

Pinellas Preparatory Academy, 4-8

2300 Belcher Road S, Largo; pinellasprep.org; (727) 536-3600

Plato Academy of Clearwater

2045 Palmetto St., Clearwater; PreK-8; platoacademy.net; (727) 793-2400

Plato Academy of Largo

7100 142nd Ave. N, Largo; PreK-8; platoacademy.net; (727) 286-6244

Plato Academy of Pinellas Park

9200 49th St. N, Pinellas Park; PreK-8; platoacademy.net; (727) 799-1200

Plato Academy of St. Petersburg

3901 Park St. N, St. Petersburg; PreK-8; platoacademy.net; (727) 623-9987

Plato Academy of Tarpon Springs

2795 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs; PreK-8; platoacademy.net; (727) 940-5232

Plato Academy of Palm Harbor

1601 Curlew Road N, Palm Harbor; PreK-8; platoacademy.net; (727) 286-6249

Plato Seminole Academy

10888 126th Ave. N, Largo; PreK-8; platoacademy.net; (727) 400-6885

St. Petersburg Collegiate High

6605 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg; 10-12; spcollege.edu/spchs; (727) 341-4610

Source: Pinellas County School District