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Sibling waits to get into brother's magnet school

Uncertainty and confusion reign in one household.

By MARY JANE PARK
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 18, 2002


Editor's note: As an extension of Sunday's special section called School Search and as an aid to understanding "controlled choice," Neighborhood Times will continue to profile families who are in the hunt for the right school during the next few months.

* * *

ST. PETERSBURG -- At first blush, choosing a school for Keenan and Cullen Molaskey should be a breeze.

Cullen, 5, attends kindergarten in the popular science and technology magnet program at Bay Point Elementary School.

Keenan, 8, is No. 2 on the sibling waiting list, which gives him priority over individual students who have applied.

It would seem that the family's school search is all but over. But it's not. Keenan is in a holding pattern, and so far this academic year, Jennifer Molaskey is teaching her older son at home.

In addition, she is confused about how to fill out his school choice application forms for next year. She has been to the Family Education and Information Center twice already to figure things out.

"When I put in applications for him next year, I put in applications for fourth and fifth grade, because he will be at a higher level" than other students, she said. Keenan will take state tests to evaluate his academic achievement.

Regardless, Molaskey said, the magnet program assistant at Bay Point told her: "It doesn't matter. He's never getting in. Come back when he's ready to go into sixth grade, or middle school."

The best time to get into a magnet program is in the entry years: kindergarten (for elementary school), sixth grade (middle school) and ninth grade (high school).

Molaskey next called the county magnet program coordinator.

"She was unaware of any situation at the school, but said Bay Point was a popular school and received more magnet applications" than some others.

"Not only does my son have priority as a sibling of a magnet student, he has sibling priority in his zoned area. Bay Point is one of our zoned schools" in the new controlled choice plan, Molaskey said.

"If they're closed off to magnet students, they ought to let the public know. What they're saying to me doesn't make sense.

"It's astonishing and unbelievable because other magnets make way for siblings. If a magnet school is not accepting students, then (it) should let the public know. If (Keenan) can't get in (as a sibling), then no other children have a chance of getting in."

"We're not going to overcrowd a class," said Linda Evers, magnet program coordinator for Bay Point elementary and middle schools. "Generally, once kids come into a magnet program, they stay.

"We're not picking on anybody. It is to our benefit to have siblings here, because often that means their parents are more involved in the school. At any grade level, siblings are invited in before the kids on the regular wait list."

Officially, Bay Point is accepting additional students, Evers said. In actuality, Keenan may continue to wait.

It's unclear whether the new choice plan will provide openings at Bay Point in the 2003-04 year. Like other elementary magnet schools, Bay Point will accept magnet applications from anyone in the county during the magnet period (which ends Oct. 15) and will accept "choice" applications from those who live in Attendance Area A -- where the school is located -- during the "choice" period, which ends Dec. 13. But it is too soon to know how many openings might exist and at which grade levels for either kind of application.

"We don't know," Evers said. "There are so many questions that nobody knows right now."

Molaskey's frustration continues.

"The choice plan cannot give me a clear answer about how I'm supposed to fill out the forms," she said.

"I know exactly what my problem is, but nobody knows the answers. I'm just in limbo, waiting."

-- Do you have a story about negotiating the new school choice plan? Please let Mary Jane Park know at 893-8267; fax 893-8675; e-mail park@sptimes.com; or P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

Corrections and additions

With a new building comes a new address for the rebuilt Bay Point Elementary, the magnet center for the Advancement of the Sciences and Technology: 5800 22nd St. S, St. Petersburg, 33712. As a magnet school, the "program emphasizes mathematics, science, technology and foreign language. Goals include increasing student interest and achievement in those areas. Students discover concepts and models through investigation and discovery learning. The program is delivered through an accelerated curriculum which emphasizes the four magnet focus areas: mathematics, science, technology and foreign language."

The new address and the attractor statement were not included in Sunday's listings in School Search.

* * *

At Lutheran Church of the Cross Day School, elementary class sizes are capped at 16 and middle school is capped at 23. A higher -- and incorrect -- number was listed Sunday in School Search.

* * *

Here is the summary information for the Christian Education Center, which was omitted from Sunday's School Search:

Christian Education Center

200 U.S. 19 N (ParkSide mall), Pinellas Park (521-9788)

CONTACT PERSON: Wanda Belew

GRADES SERVED: Kindergarten-8

HOURS: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

NUMBER OF STUDENTS: 20

CLASS SIZE: 10

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: None

APPLICATION DEADLINE/FEE: None/$100

YEARLY TUITION: $2,250

SIBLING DISCOUNT? Yes

TYPE OF DISCIPLINE: Time out, counseling with parent and student

TYPE OF ACCREDITATION: None

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