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Compromise brings K-8 program to Roland Park

Instead of making the school a magnet, officials will establish the unique choice program that is praised by parents working nearby.

By LOGAN D. MABE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 8, 2002

Each time the School Board sets boundaries for a new school, at least one neighborhood or parent group publicly opposes the plan.

But Tuesday night, when the board pondered boundaries for Farnell Middle School in northwest Hillsborough County, the outcry came from parents representing a South Tampa school.

The plan called for students at Bay Crest, Lowry and Bryant elementaries to feed into Farnell. But by doing that, attendance at Roland Park Middle School would fall to less than 300 students, too few for the school to remain viable.

So district staff came up with a plan to move students from the Manhattan/Westshore Alliance Elementary Choice School 21/2 miles north to Roland Park, which would be converted to a unique kindergarten to eighth-grade magnet school.

The change to a magnet program would mean a shakeup of Westshore's faculty and administration. And that got parents hot.

"We don't want our school of choice to close," said Westshore parent Sally Shitke. "We have built an elementary school that is a role model to the Hillsborough County school system."

Westshore Alliance's unique composition allows workers in the Westshore business district to be near the school and their children, though they may live far away. Parents must apply for a child's entry.

"This school offers something no other school can offer," said Peggy Ann McKinley, who lives in Pasco County but works in the Westshore area.

"I found this jewel in South Tampa."

The school currently is at Bay Villa Avenue near Manhattan Avenue in the southern Interbay peninsula.

The change will put it a few blocks north of Interstate 275, between West Shore Boulevard and Manhattan Avenue.

School Board members proposed a compromise that cheered the Westshore Alliance proponents; Move the school to Roland Park, but allow it to retain its choice status instead of converting to a magnet school.

Board member Carolyn Bricklemyer said that marketing the Westshore Alliance choice program would likely attract the 300 additional students needed to fill Roland Park.

"If you let the word out, it's going to be very full," she said. "It will draw people because parents want to be near their children. Those of you who are so passionate, I'd ask that you go forth and find the other 300."

Westshore Alliance parent Amanda Moonitz of Odessa was thrilled with the outcome, saying students will now be able to attend school from kindergarten to eighth-grade on one campus.

Student pupil services director Bill Person said Roland Park will be the first K-8 program in the county.

"The literature we're reading says that K-8 is doing very well throughout the rest of the country, so we wanted to try that," Person said.

- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 226-3464 or at

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