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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014

Troubled St. Pete charter school faces closure

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CLEARWATER — Only months after its elementary school was closed due to poor performance, Imagine Charter School in St. Petersburg’s middle school has learned it may face a similar fate.

During its Tuesday meeting, the Florida Board of Education denied the charter school a waiver that would have prevented it from being closed because of years of low school grades. The school earned its second F last school year and earned two D’s in the years prior. Representatives from the school submitted a presentation to the board arguing that the approximately 100 students enrolled at the school had bigger learning gains than those in neighboring public schools; but the numbers weren’t enough to convince board members, who unanimously denied the waiver request with little discussion.

The middle school has the lowest academic performance in the county, with only 25 percent of students considered proficient in reading and only 10 percent proficient in math, according to the state Department of Education.

Nevertheless, Imagine officials said they still provide quality education.

“In some classes there are 12 students, the overall class size is between 12 and 15, and with a smaller school we can focus very specifically on students needs,” said Imagine curriculum specialist Chris Watson. “We are confident that our learning gains are comparable to the gains in the surrounding schools and feel that we have met the requirements of the state as far as meeting the learning goals of our zoned schools.”

The building that houses the middle school at 1950 First Ave. N. also housed an elementary school run by Imagine, until it was closed by the Pinellas County School Board this year. The school made several attempts to appeal the decision.

School districts must close a charter after two years of F grades, unless the school demonstrates that students’ learning gains on statewide assessments are “comparable to or better than the learning gains of similarly situated students enrolled in nearby district public school,” according to state law.

adawson@tampatrib.com

(727) 215-9851

Twitter: @adawsonTBO

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