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    Proposal may fix 2 school problems

    The board hopes to find a home for Lealman Intermediate and keep Tyrone Middle open.

    By KELLY RYAN GILMER

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published October 31, 2001


    LARGO -- Pinellas School Board members on Tuesday were intrigued by a proposal that would find a new home for Lealman Intermediate School and simultaneously save Tyrone Middle School.

    Board members asked superintendent Howard Hinesley and other school officials to study whether Lealman, a dropout prevention program, could be relocated to the new and expanded Azalea Middle School in western St. Petersburg.

    The first stop in reviewing that idea's feasibility: Azalea. That school's staff and community have not been involved yet in discussions about Lealman's future because the first proposal was to relocate the Lealman program to Tyrone.

    At a workshop, board members made clear that the idea has promise but that they need more information before they would offer formal support for making Lealman a school-within-a-school at Azalea. Hinesley said he expects to bring a recommendation to the board sometime early next year.

    If the plan gets the board's support, it would happen in 2003.

    Lealman Intermediate, which serves more than 400 students in grades 5 through 8, has environmental and structural problems that could cost $5-million to fix. Officials say it would be more cost effective to move the school rather than rebuild.

    Plus, moving Lealman would have other benefits.

    The district can't build new schools unless it gets the state's permission. As part of the settlement in the county's desegregation case, the district got permission to build Thurgood Marshall Middle south of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg.

    If Lealman either replaces Tyrone or becomes part of Azalea, district officials think they will have a better chance of getting permission to build a new middle school in a growing part of the county near East Lake.

    In addition, Lealman sits next to a bus compound, and the district will need more bus storage space when it moves to choice. On Tuesday, School Board members reached consensus that the district should move forward with plans to expand that compound.

    This summer, Hinesley first floated the idea that Tyrone could close. The Tyrone community mobilized, collecting signatures and picketing to save a school that parents and teachers say the neighborhood needs.

    At the same time, a committee was formed to study the district's options. The committee presented the three best options to the School Board on Tuesday: move Lealman to Tyrone and disperse Tyrone's students to other St. Petersburg middle schools; move Lealman to Tyrone and let Tyrone's students and staff move as a team to the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School; or absorb Lealman within Azalea and leave Tyrone alone.

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