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Gifted students have new option
Five elementaries offer in-house services to those who decline to travel to centers.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
Published August 27, 2007
For years, Pasco parents who want gifted education for their elementary-aged children have had to travel for it.
Some willingly have sent their youngsters to the district's gifted centers. But some declined, and by doing so, they gave up the services their children qualified for.
That's changing now.
Five Pasco elementary schools - Marlowe, Oakstead, Sand Pine, Seven Oaks and Trinity - are now offering gifted services in-house, to serve the families that don't want to leave.
Their children attend regular classes, but the teachers provide enrichment activities and detailed education plans to push them further than their classmates might otherwise go.
The district is training the teachers, many of whom do not have expertise in gifted education, so they can get the specialty certification.
"We wanted to expand options for children," assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly explained. "Pretty much every school has children eligible but whose parents won't put them in the centers."
If the pilot works, it could expand to other schools, Reilly said. The full-service centers will remain intact.
Sand Pine principal Ginny Yanson was quick to note the pilot really isn't a program, as it includes no extra money and no teachers with gifted certification. The school had to find volunteers to go through the training and work the extra lessons into their existing plans, she said.
Five signed up.
"It's just a little pilot to get people started in that direction and to provide some services for the kids," Yanson said.
But from the small steps, she has big expectations. Yanson's ultimate goal is to have a full-time gifted program at Sand Pine.
The idea of integrating gifted education into the regular school day fits neatly with the school district's continuous progress model, Trinity principal Kathy Rushe said.
In that model, children already attend classes in multiage groups, getting instruction that meets their needs, subject by subject. Having teachers trained to go even deeper will better help students who can go beyond the basics, whether officially eligible for gifted education or not, Rushe said.
"The whole thing about having neighborhood schools is that you have neighborhood schools, and you have ways to serve students whether they have a disability or a gift," she said.
Marlowe principal Terri Mutell also had high hopes for the initiative. In the first week of classes, students already had completed interest inventories so their teachers can find them mentors to help them delve into topics.
They've been encouraged to participate in Odyssey of the Mind, too. The teachers, meanwhile, have started assessing student learning styles and writing individual education plans.
"We want to kick it up a notch," Mutell said, adding that the effort might lure more kids back to the Title 1 school. "We're hoping to see it blossom into something more."
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.