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Officials hear ideas for fundamental high school

By DONNA WINCHESTER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 16, 2005

LARGO - Plans for a fundamental high school in Pinellas County moved a step closer to reality Tuesday when School Board members discussed what the school would look like.

Based on parent comments at a series of "listening tours" last month, the new school would open next fall in an existing high school, most likely in the mid-county area, so that students would have access to extracurricular activities and sports.

In its first year, the school would serve ninth-graders only, with one grade added each year for the next three years. Students would adhere to the existing fundamental middle school dress code and would be required to have parents sign off on their homework, at least for the first semester.

Some form of busing would be provided if enough students enrolled, unless it bound them to inconvenient school hours. In that case, parents would provide transportation.

Cathy Fleeger, an assistant superintendent in charge of high schools, shared data at the School Board's regularly scheduled workshop from more than 400 listening tour attendees. She also submitted some recommendations, including a suggestion that converting an existing high school into a fundamental high school occur only if 400 or more eighth-graders accept placement in the fundamental high school program during the upcoming choice application process.

If between 135 and 399 students accept placement, Fleeger suggested that a fundamental high school be offered as a "school" within an existing high school. If fewer than 135 students accept placement, she suggested that high schools offer "traditional" programs - similar to fundamental programs - as school attractors rather than create a fundamental high school.

Transportation would not be provided if fewer than 400 students accepted placement, she said.

Responding to board members' questions about which students would be eligible to attend, Fleeger said the school would be open to students countywide but that eighth-graders currently enrolled in Coachman, Southside and Thurgood Marshall fundamental middle schools - about 580 students - would automatically be accepted.

Then priority status would go to eighth-graders currently enrolled in the "traditional" programs at Dunedin, Osceola, Largo, Madeira Beach and Riviera middle schools.

School superintendent Clayton Wilcox told board members that the numbers were flexible and would depend on which location was chosen for the school. Board members agreed to continue the discussion at a Dec. 6 workshop. A final vote is scheduled for the Dec. 13 School Board meeting.

[Last modified November 16, 2005, 01:09:18]

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