© St. Petersburg Times, published February 6, 2003
TAMPA -- School officials formally opened three offices Wednesday designed to inform parents about the new student assignment plan called controlled choice.
They are the first of eight centers that will open countywide this year.
Hillsborough superintendent Earl Lennard and School Board chairwoman Carol Kurdell cut the ribbon for the Parent Resource Center at the Kimbell Full Service Center on E 26th Street. Offices also opened at King High on N 56th Street and Jefferson High on Cypress Street.
Former teachers have been hired to work at the centers and explain the choice plan, which begins in 2004 and replaces busing for desegregation.
Since court oversight for desegregation has ended, officials are hoping the choice plan will keep schools ethnically diverse voluntarily.
Children are being encouraged to go outside their neighborhoods in selecting schools, some of which will offer special attractor programs such as technology, fine arts and child care.
All parents, in fact, will be given more options in selecting their children's schools if space is available. Parents will begin selecting schools in the fall.
At the centers, parents will be able to use computers and maps to figure out which schools their children can attend.
The centers, which are being funded by a $13.2-million federal grant, will be open daily until 6 p.m on weekdays.
Lennard said he wants all parents to know about their options, which ultimately will determine whether controlled choice succeeds or fails.
"We want everyone to be familiar with this plan," he said. "We want it to be the best in the nation."