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School news

District forced to limit choice

Families won't be able to send their children to schools that are above capacity, but they will be given options.

By ELISABETH DYER
Published February 13, 2004

South Tampa area schools above capacity, including Plant High School and Wilson Middle School, will not receive additional students through the choice program, even though postcards mailed to families last week say the students can attend.

"It was never our intent to put students in schools that are at or over capacity," deputy superintendent Randy Poindexter told the School Board on Tuesday. "However, what we have discovered is that the software did assign some students to some schools, and we're frantically trying to correct it."

Information the school district released Feb. 1 showed Plant High School would get 81 choice students, Wilson Middle School would get 69 and Jefferson High School would get 53, even though all are over capacity and have no provision to accommodate more students. Coleman Middle School, with 30 available slots, was set to gain 75 choice students.

Countywide, 30 percent of schools are at or over capacity.

Families who received a postcard saying their child can attend a capped school will receive a call from choice officials about the mix-up, Poindexter said. Officials will offer parents options at schools that have room, such as Madison Middle School, Monroe Middle School and Robinson High School.

"This has to be corrected," Poindexter said. "It never should have happened."

News that crowded South Tampa schools would receive additional students upset some parents.

Wilson PTSA president Michelle Shimberg said the school, the smallest traditional middle school in the county, could not accommodate more students.

"It makes no sense," she said. "There are middle schools in our area that are under capacity."

South Tampa parents brought their concerns to School Board member Candy Olson, who raised the issue at Tuesday's School Board workshop. Olson said parents questioned whether students coming to Wilson from private elementary schools were accounted for in next year's enrollment count.

Wilson averages about 45 students each year from these schools, Poindexter said.

Olson said district officials initially told School Board members that students would be eligible to attend a choice school only if there was space.

"It doesn't make sense to cram more kids into Jefferson or Plant when we have capacity elsewhere," Olson said.

District officials on Tuesday planned to contact schools that are at capacity but were assigned choice students. They will call the affected parents within the next few weeks.

- Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at 226-3321 or edyer@sptimes.com

[Last modified February 12, 2004, 12:51:07]

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