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Neighborhood Report

Magnets alter enrollments

Some parents thought their kids were heading to one school and now learn it's another.

By ELISABETH DYER
Published June 2, 2006


GANDY/SUN BAY SOUTH - Plant High School parents have worried for years that district officials would shift boundaries, forcing their children to change schools.

That could change, thanks to magnet schools. About 125 students, 25 of them zoned for Plant, have accepted seats at Robinson High School's International Baccalaureate program, which starts this fall.

The district's third IB had been in the works for several years, said Susan King, supervisor of magnet schools and programs. "Robinson was a perfect fit."

Magnets such as IB are moving students from crowded schools to those with space. This past school year, Plant had 1,975 students, putting it at 99 percent capacity. Robinson was at 70 percent capacity with 1,207 students, the least of all district high schools.

This fall, district officials project Plant to be at 96 percent and Robinson at 81 percent.

"It's part of the district's effort to utilize all of our facilities," King said. "It really helps everybody."

Besides Plant, Robinson's IB will pull students zoned for Spoto, Leto, Jefferson, Alonso and parts of Blake and Bloomingdale high schools. Alonso, Blake and Bloomingdale are over capacity.

Several parents in Alonso's boundaries were dismayed to find they are now zoned for Robinson's IB program, several miles away.

In preparation for Hillsborough High School's IB program, Angela Johnson sent her son to Williams Middle Magnet School for International Studies, a school that prepares students for IB.

Now zoned for Robinson's IB, she's having second thoughts.

Her 30-minute drive from Westchase to Hillsborough High could change to a 90-minute drive to Robinson in South Tampa, she says.

Other parents lament that they weren't forewarned. When they opened IB acceptance letters, they expected Hillsborough High but got Robinson.

Magnet officials have been looking at options for transportation, King said, including merging with choice busing and eliminating the transfer hubs.

But magnets aren't designed for convenience, she said.

"That's the whole thrust of a magnet: to get students out of their neighborhood schools," King said.

Along with the new IB program, a new animal science magnet will open in August at Cahoon Elementary School, 2312 E Yukon St. near Sulphur Springs.

The school plans to partner with Busch Gardens and Lowry Park Zoo to study animal habitats. Cahoon also will have a Gifted and Talent Development Academy.

Most magnet schools still have space available, depending on the grade level.

Applications are available at apps1.sdhc.k12.fl.us/magnet.

Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at edyer@sptimes.com or 813 226-3321.

[Last modified May 31, 2006, 13:55:06]


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