Curtis moving to bigger school

Moving to the Dunedin Elementary site will allow the fundamental school to open about 80 slots.

Published March 26, 2007

DUNEDIN - Parents waiting for their child to be admitted to Curtis Fundamental School soon will have reason to celebrate.

The school received word last week from district headquarters that it will move into the current Dunedin Elementary School building starting in the 2008-09 school year, said Curtis principal Kathy Duncan. The move had been discussed for months.

The larger Dunedin Elementary, which will be remodeled, will allow Curtis Fundamental to add students in several grade levels, increasing substantially its current student population of 435.

Once relocated, the school will have four classes in every grade, from kindergarten through fifth grade. Now, only first and fourth grades have four classes. The other grades have three classes.

With each class numbering about 20 students, the move could open about 80 slots for new students.

"It will be a positive thing for the county because more children will have access to the school," Duncan said. Every grade currently has a lengthy waiting list, she said.

Curtis selects its new students by lottery, which is redone each year. So the school's move will affect only parents hoping to enroll children in 2008, Duncan said.

A new Dunedin Elementary is being built on the site of the old Dunedin Highland Middle School. The elementary school will vacate its current building at the end of this school year.

The school building then will undergo a year of repair and renovation to make way for Curtis Fundamental.

Curtis is located at 1210 Holt Ave. in central Clearwater. It specializes in setting a high academic standard and in fostering parents' involvement in their children's lives.

Admission to Curtis has grown more competitive each year since its opening as the first fundamental school in Pinellas County in 1976. Pinellas now has five fundamental elementary schools. The only other fundamental elementary school in North Pinellas is Tarpon Springs Fundamental School.

Parents who currently have students enrolled in Curtis will have to change their driving patterns to get to the school in Dunedin, which is at Beltrees Street and Milwaukee Avenue. Family members of students admitted to fundamental schools are required to arrange transportation.

Mayor Bob Hackworth said it is great to have a certain plan in place for the elementary school building, which has a distinctive Spanish architectural style. He said he has heard concerns about whether the historic character of the building would be preserved, and about what kind of organization might take over the building.

He said Curtis would provide Dunedin with a top-notch facility and would allow for the historic architecture to be restored.

"It's one of the best things that could have happened," he said.