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Year in review: Pasco schools await student response to technical high school

Pasco County school district leaders have longed for years to create a technical high school.

At the same time, Ridgewood High School has struggled to meet state objectives on annual spring tests, and faced being forced into turnaround options that appealed to few.

The solution: Shut down Ridgewood and turn it into a magnet technical high school.

The idea didn’t come without its critics, including members of the School Board. They worried about how quickly they would need to convert to Wendell Krinn Technical High School, and if quality would suffer as a result.

To avoid the state’s heavy accountability hand, the administration told the board in September of its desire to make the change. It wanted quick approval so families could apply for the 2018-19 academic year in January.

That meant the planning team would be creating the program at the same time it was marketing the program, as principal Chris Dunning explained to guidance counselors at an introductory session.

Some parents worried about losing their neighborhood school, still referred to by many as the "Pride of Pasco." Others wondered whether Ridgewood students who had trouble with state exams would get help if they transferred to other high schools.

Still, the board agreed to the plan, assured by staff it would deal with the concerns.

The faculty at Fivay and Gulf high schools, which are slated to receive the Ridgewood students who don’t attend the magnet school, have pledged to counsel each incoming student. The magnet staff, meanwhile, doubled down on creating a campus that pairs with Marchman Technical College next door, ensuring students have a program that combines rigorous academics with hands-on training.

The big question remains: Will students come?

Despite its promise of courses in robotics and biomedical sciences, the magnet school won’t have band, art or athletics, key draws for some students.

Dunning told students at a recent presentation that the school still will have other activities, including prom and pep rallies.

They’ll just celebrate the electronics team instead of sports teams.

Plans call for a school of about 600 students — 150 per grade level — with every teen getting the opportunity to gain industrial certifications, 28 credits toward graduation, and even credit toward an associate’s degree.

The application period begins Jan. 8 and runs through early February.

Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer

RELATED: Pasco School Board approves new magnet plan for Ridgewood High School

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