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As school expands, district takes note
An official says Athenian Academy's contract is violated.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published September 5, 2007
NEW PORT RICHEY - With the closure of the Language Academy charter school, the nearby Athenian Academy is expected to grow.
It won approval over the summer to add sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and to increase its enrollment to 268 - more than 100 above last year's figure. By last Friday, the school looked right on track, with 227 students in its classrooms. On Tuesday, it was at 235.
To administrator Manuel Goncalves, it represented the school's appeal to families.
To assistant superintendent Renalia DuBose, it meant a violation in the school's contract with the school district.
The School Board had authorized the Athenian Academy to grow to 268 only if it added all three grades, DuBose said, but to 224 if it added sixth-grade alone. And the school has not started the seventh or eighth yet.
"Basically, what we're going to ask them to do is not admit more students, and when students leave not to fill their spots until they get to their legal limit," DuBose said.
Goncalves disagreed that the school had violated any agreement. "The district says I can have 268. I have 235," he said. "I'm somewhat puzzled that the district would frown on our increased numbers."
If anything, he said, the charter school should be upset with the school district. The school didn't win approval to add seventh and eighth grades until the last week of July, too late to attract pupils. So when it told parents about the choice, only 14 signed up - not nearly enough to justify the expense of a classroom, teacher or materials.
"Next year we will add seventh and eighth and do it right," Goncalves said.
In the meantime, the school continues to enroll children to the earlier grades. It still has a waiting list.
"You have to look at this and be fair," Goncalves said. "I think the district and I ought to be working together to find common ground to serve the students. They deserve it."
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.