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4 groups present charter proposals
The School Board has until October to decide on the plans.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
Published August 3, 2007
LAND O'LAKES - Enrollment in Pasco County's charter schools has remained essentially flat for the past few years.
The School Board shut down one charter, the Language Academy, and its threats of probation prompted another, the Richard Milburn Academy, to close its doors at the end of its contract in June.
If you think the atmosphere is not conducive to new charter schools, though, you'd be wrong. Four groups have applied to open schools in 2008, initially serving about 900 children. Within five years, the schools hope to enroll almost 2,000 students.
Nancy Scowcroft, the district's charter school supervisor, said Pasco would welcome high-quality programs to the mix. She had not yet reviewed the applications, which were due by 5 p.m. Wednesday, so she could not comment on what's been proposed.
And while the growing school district could use more seats for students, Scowcroft harbored concerns over the applicants' enrollment projections.
"I don't know if they can hit these high numbers," she said. "We just don't have any history showing that. Our charter schools are not growing."
That might be because the high-quality charter schools have enrollment caps. Perhaps others that become desirable might alter the trend, Scowcroft acknowledged.
The applicants are:
- Life Skills Center 250 students in Year 1, an at-risk high school program that offers primarily online curriculum. The management company has nine schools in Florida already, and is looking at Dade City or Hudson for its Pasco site.
- Imagine Charter Schools of Pasco (276 students), a Project CHILD-based program that wants to open in central Pasco as a K-6 school and expand to K-8. Last year, the School Board rejected Imagine, which has four other Florida locations.
- Dade City Charter School (150 students), a high school for at-risk teens to be run by a Hillsborough County management firm called Cambridge Educational Management Associates.
- Plato Academy (228 students), an elementary school with one location in Clearwater. The school's founder attempted unsuccessfully to take over the now-closed Language Academy last year. It is looking at sites in Dade City, Zephyrhills and New Port Richey.
The Pasco School Board has until Oct. 1 to decide whether it will offer charters to these companies. Charter schools are publicly funded but operate outside many of the bureaucratic rules that govern county school districts.
Charter schools must follow the state's accountability program.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit The Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.