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The School Board backs a task force recommendation to make the change starting in the fall. But many details still must be worked out.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published January 23, 2008
BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County's gifted children will likely be centralized at an existing magnet school next fall, the School Board decided Tuesday.
Board members at a workshop session backed the recommendation of a task force to put a new gifted center at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics.
That decision, which must still be affirmed by a formal board vote, gives momentum to a program that was little more than an idea when the school year began.
Under that program, many of the district's 575 gifted students will be transported to Challenger this fall, rather than attending their neighborhood schools. They'll likely be in classrooms with other gifted children and teachers trained in that specialty, though those classes will be dispersed throughout the school rather than clustered.
But many details remain to be resolved before the August opening of the center. Among the prickliest questions are how many families will agree to the move, and how many prospective Challenger applicants will be displaced as a result.
Challenger principal Sue Stoops, who supports the change, told the board that she has held off notifying families of decisions on their applications to the magnet school pending a decision on the gifted program. Only kindergarten applicants have been notified.
"It will limit the number of students who are accepted through the lottery or portfolio process," Stoops acknowledged.
With Tuesday's decision, the district will now begin the process of polling parents on their interest in the center.
District officials have not made a firm decision on whether gifted services would continue to be offered at other schools, or just in the new center. Board member John Sweeney said he would find it hard to support the idea of ceasing all services except at the center.
But board member Jim Malcolm, a driving force behind the gifted program, said the district likely can't afford to do both.
Board member Pat Fagan said he supported putting the gifted center in Challenger, rather than building a more expensive stand-alone school. Officials say they'll need to spend around $100,000 to adapt some classrooms at Challenger, which now has an enrollment of 1,475.
And he suggested the board might build a second gifted center later if there's enough interest in the program.
Board member Dianne Bonfield opposed the move most strongly, saying the district should consider putting the program into a planned K-8 on U.S. 19, even though that school hasn't yet been designed and won't be open until 2010.
Members were in agreement about one thing, though: The district has done a poor job of identifying gifted children in the county, with some schools serving far more than others.
"Folks, we have identified just 10 gifted first-graders, districtwide," Malcolm said. "I think there is a problem with that number."
Under Florida law, gifted students are treated as special-needs students and bring in about $2,100 in extra per-student funding.
"Gifted" is defined as scoring at least two standard deviations above the mean IQ score, and qualifying in at least one category on a state checklist. Under law, such students must receive appropriate services once they're identified.
Tom Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352 584-5537.
By the numbers
575 gifted students could be transported to Challenger this fall.
1,475 students attend the school now.
$10,000 is the amount school officials say they would need to adapt some classrooms at the Challenger school.
$2,100 is the ap-proximate amount of extra funding schools get for each gifted student since they are considered "special needs" students.
The board must do a formal vote on the new gifted center.
[Last modified January 22, 2008, 21:07:59]