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Area schools win approval for improvement plans

The Board of Education sets some expectations for each as they move forward.

Without debate, the Florida Board of Education has approved turnaround proposals for four perennially struggling Tampa Bay-area schools.

Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County’s only F-rated school, will get an additional year to show improvements while partnering with a private school management company. District officials have said the school — which has at times seen some of the worst test results in the state — has begun making progress toward a C grade.

If the extension had not been approved, the district had proposed turning the school over to a charter operator. That would have been a first for the county.

The State Board granted the extra year, with the condition that if Lakewood does not get a C or better in this year’s state grading, it must replace its operator and principal next year, while retaining all its teachers rated effective and highly effective.

Related: State will decide fate of Pinellas’ long-struggling Lakewood Elementary

The board set similar terms for Oak Park and Foster elementary schools in Tampa.

Those two schools had been under the operation of Phelan Leadership Academies for the past year and a half. District leaders said that, after making some extensive changes in leadership, teaching and curriculum, the schools had made significant positive strides.

They asked for the added year to push the schools to a C grade.

A related proposal for Thonotosassa Elementary was not acted on.

Related: Hillsborough’s Foster, Oak Park and Thonotasassa schools are under state scrutiny

The board also agreed to allow the Pasco County school district to close Hudson Elementary School, which has had only one year in the past nine above a D grade.

The approval clears the way for the district to rezone Hudson students to Northwest and Gulf Highlands elementary schools as part of a larger improvement plan for west Pasco.

The State Board required that the district reassign the children to schools graded C or higher. It also instructed the district to monitor the students’ academic performance for the next three years.

Related: Closing Hudson Elementary School still requires state approval