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    Alternative school lacks only a home

    The new alternative high school has a principal, a name - and a site with environmental problems.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001

    LARGO -- A principal has been named to lead the district's new alternative high school, but the district isn't sure where the school will be built.

    Bayside High School, for students who don't succeed in traditional classrooms, is planned for a 12-acre site near the juvenile detention center near Largo.

    But Superintendent Howard Hinesley told board members Tuesday that groundwater contamination has been found near the site at 5255 140th Ave. N.

    Environmental regulators say it must be cleaned up before the project can move forward.

    So, for the moment, the project is on hold.

    "We need to be looking at alternative sites in case that one is not appropriate," said School Board Chairman Tom Todd. "It is critical that we get that school under way. The plans are almost done."

    The district's goal is to have the school open by 2002-2003. Hinesley said the site problems could delay the school.

    The district and the county, partners in the project, have to determine whether the Largo site can be cleaned up quickly or whether another site has to be found.

    As Todd suggested, both the county and the school district are on the hunt for alternative sites that either government agency already owns. Hinesley warned board members that all the property the district owns sits in residential neighborhoods -- few of which would want an alternative school nearby.

    The school is for students who are disruptive, truant, or have criminal records. About 500 students, in grades 9 through 12, will be served at the school.

    Despite the project's potential slow-down, School Board members on Tuesday named the Bayside's principal. Clayton L. Snare, who is the site administrator at Pinellas Technical Education Center in St. Petersburg, will begin his new post early next year.

    In other news, the School Board:

    Continued to discuss putting a referendum on the ballot so voters can decide whether the School Board should have single-member districts. A vote endorsing the referendum is expected Feb. 13.

    Unanimously denied an application by the National People's Democratic Uhuru Movement to open the Marcus Garvey Academy charter school. A slightly different proposal was unanimously rejected last year.

    This year's proposal was to open a school for 40 struggling fourth- and fifth-graders. Hinesley recommended that the application be denied because it would violate the district's court order limiting the number of black students who can attend a school.

    The academy's lawyer, Guy Burns, has argued that the school should be exempt from the ratios because of its dropout prevention focus. District officials disagreed.

    Listened to a report by School Board attorney John Bowen, who said a proposed Bible class by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools would be unconstitutional.

    After a brief discussion, board members took no action. But board members Max Gessner and Nancy Bostock suggested that the district try to do a better job of letting students know that elective courses on a variety of subjects, including the Bible, can be made available.

    Agreed to hire a marketing and communications coordinator to help the public understand the district's move toward letting parents choose their children's schools in fall 2003. The new position will be paid through a state grant; annual salary will range from $54,072 to $79,740.

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