Attracted to an area magnet school?

As the start of the application process looms, now is the time to check out the six attendance area magnet elementary programs. Here, we take a look at three of the six schools.

Published January 10, 2007

Due to changes this year in the school choice application process, those who wish to apply to one of the six area attendance magnet elementary schools in south Pinellas must do so between Jan. 15 and Feb. 3. Because the school district was under a federal court order prohibiting it from creating countywide magnet programs when these schools received federal Magnet Schools Assistance Program grants, they became "attendance area" magnet schools, open only to children who live in the areas surrounding them.

To help you navigate the maze of school choice, we'll highlight three of these schools this week, and three more next week. To help you make your choice, consider attending the discovery nights to learn more about the schools you are interested in, or go to the magnet/choice information fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 20 at Pinellas Park High School, 6305 118th Ave. N.

For more information, visit the school choice Web site at www.pinellaschoice.org, or check out the School Choice Information Guides that will be available at schools and libraries.

Campbell Park Elementary Marine Science Center, 1051 Seventh Ave. S, St. Petersburg; 893-2650. Tours will be given at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 16, 18, 23, 25 and 30 and Feb. 1, and by appointment. Discovery Night will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 23.

Campbell Park offers a marine science lab and a Spanish lab, as part of the school's focus on marine science and world language instruction.

Each grade focuses on a different marine life habitat, from sandy beaches to coral reefs, said principal Jim Steen. Students still get a heavy dose of the fundamentals, Steen said, but the marine science focus offers kids a unique classroom experience. "If you can excite children to learn, they'll learn," said principal Jim Steen.

The school hosts an annual Ocean Week and has partnerships with entities like the Florida Aquarium and USF-St. Petersburg Marine Science Program. Campbell Park also offers high-tech instruction for students through a video conference system, a digital video production studio and wireless laptop computer labs.

Gulfport Montessori Elementary School (Kindergarten only for Montessori program), 2014 52nd St. S, Gulfport; 893-2643. Tours by appointment. Discovery Night will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 30.

Gulfport offers a Montessori program that focuses on cultivating a child's natural ability to learn through individualized and interdisciplinary instruction and hands-on activities. The method allows teachers to observe students and create an environment best suited to that child's learning needs, said principal Lisa Grant.

"It develops intrinsic motivation and it really is sequential. It starts concrete and moves to abstract," Grant said.

Pinellas County's only public Montessori school, Gulfport has a daily student-produced news show, a student-grown vegetable garden, a Spanish program, and offers extra academic help for struggling students. The school, which opened in 2003, has a foreign language lab with video conference capabilities.

Maximo Elementary Microsociety Center for Economics and Visual Arts, 4850 31st St. S, St. Petersburg; 893-2191. Tours will be given from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 18 and from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Jan. 31.

Maximo operates like a small town within a school, where safety patrol guards are known as police officers and student council representatives make up the school's legislature. The idea is "to help children get real world experience so they relate to what they're learning," said principal Sandra O'Bryant.

"It's great for any child to see what the reason is behind what they're learning," she said.

Kids at Maximo learn how to balance a checkbook or start a small business, in addition to academic lessons. The school underwent major renovations a few years ago and now boasts technological advancements like smart boards in classrooms, O'Bryant said.

Maximo also offers an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, as well as intensive instruction in reading and math.