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    A choice deadline is moved up

    The choice process for magnet and fundamental schools requires mid-October applications.

    By KELLY RYAN GILMER, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 21, 2002


    For months, Pinellas school officials said big changes were looming for the magnet and fundamental school application process once a new districtwide choice plan begins.

    Now, officials have decided they won't fix what isn't broken.

    The magnet and fundamental application process will mostly stay as it has been for years. The only change -- and it's significant -- is that the application deadline will move up from Dec. 1 to mid October.

    Chris Lowry, who is in charge of the county's magnet and fundamental programs, said it had been confusing to parents to merge the long-established magnet and fundamental application process with the brand-new process for other choice schools.

    Plus, merging the two application processes meant a shift in philosophy for magnet and fundamental schools. Under the now discarded proposal, a student would have been assigned to a magnet or fundamental program, rather than having the chance to be invited to more than one and then choose.

    That isn't an issue now that the current system will stay in place.

    "Everything that's going on will be very confusing to parents, even those who are really keeping abreast of everything," said Pat Archibald, magnet coordinator at Perkins Elementary School. "It will give parents some familiarity."

    This shift will pose some challenges for schools and parents.

    For years, magnet and fundamental applications were available Oct. 1 and due Dec. 1. Students could apply to attend more than one program. Depending on the student's lottery number, he or she could be invited to attend more than one program.

    Students found out whether they got in on Feb. 1 and had until March 1 to accept or decline an invitation.

    Under the new process, which is still being developed, applications will be available shortly after school starts Aug. 7. The magnet school showcase will be held Oct. 5, so the application deadline will be soon after.

    The choice application process for all other schools will be Sept. 16 to Dec. 13.

    Students who apply to magnets or fundamentals will be notified if they get in before Dec. 13 so they can still participate in the choice process.

    Lowry said magnet coordinators and other administrators are reviewing the time line. She is not sure when the deadlines will be official.

    "In the past, we have been able to tell our parents way ahead of time what those dates are," said Donna Hoover, principal at Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary School. "Now, it's going to be earlier. We're afraid that the information won't get out to the parents."

    Parents said they approve. They want to know sooner not later, whether their kids get into magnet programs so they can still choose neighborhood schools.

    "It gives us more options," said Meg Trueluck, a parent at Skycrest Christian School in Clearwater, whose daughter might pursue the International Baccalaureate or medical magnet program at Palm Harbor University High School.

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