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Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

Demand strong at new schools

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CLEARWATER — The two newest schools in Pinellas County were approved to open only last month, but already have filled up with kindergarten students.

The school district received 74 applications for the three kindergarten classes at Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach and 41 applications for the two kindergarten classes at Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater during the application period for magnet and fundamental programs.

Several students had to be placed on wait lists for the two schools, the first additional schools to open in the district in the past decade.

Overall, Gulf Beaches received 249 applications for its 348 seats in kindergarten through fifth grade. Kings Highway received 141 applications for 276 seats. Kings Highway also will have a pre-kindergarten center with 10 to 12 classrooms that will focus on literacy and kindergarten preparedness, as well as teach basic violin performance skills.

School officials are confident the school will reach capacity by the time it opens in August.

Both schools were closed in 2009 because of low enrollment, but were reopened to alleviate the long wait lists for the county’s popular magnet and fundamental programs. Principals won’t be hired until April, but preliminary application numbers prove the innovative, technology-driven teaching model has “great potential,” school board Vice Chairwoman Linda Lerner said.

“Most often families are happy with the schools they’re at, and some parents will want to wait to see the schools in action, so it’s not that surprising that most applicants are for kindergarten,” Lerner said. “I’m very excited about the whole concept, and I think it will be a good instructional model so other schools will be able to adapt whatever they’re doing.”

The two schools will operate on a “flipped classroom” model. Instead of introducing new topics in classroom lessons and assigning homework to practice, students will be expected to learn new material at home and class time will be reserved for putting those skills to use, said Pam Moore, associate superintendent of teaching and learning services.

Each student will use iPads and interactive white boards to complete lessons, and much of their school day will be spent working with their peers on assignments as teachers instruct with discussions and dialogue. The students also will have access to a multimedia production studio.

The actual number of seats filled in each grade level at the two schools is not available. Parents had until Friday to accept enrollment invitations, or lose them. Families may reapply for extra seats available during the late application period, which begins for all District Application Programs on March 31.

The late period also includes seats in 45 district application programs for students in all grade levels, as well as spots on a wait list if seats are unavailable, school district spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra said in an email. Parents may register on the school district’s website.

For the late application period, geographic restrictions have been lifted for some programs, allowing students countywide to apply if the program criteria is met and they can provide their own transportation. These programs include:

• Institute for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (ISTEM) at Countryside High School

• Center for Computer Technologies at Countryside High School

• Lakewood High School Center for Journalism and Multimedia

• Middle Grades Gateway to Technology Pre-Engineering at Azalea Middle School

• Pre-Cambridge AICE at Pinellas Park Middle School

• Leadership Conservatory/Pre-Cambridge AICE at Tarpon Springs Middle School

• Montessori Academy at Gulfport Elementary School

adawson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-9851

Twitter: @adawsonTBO

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