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Clock ticking to enroll in Pinellas school programs

CLEARWATER — The application period for Pinellas County’s magnet, fundamental, charter and career programs is now open, and parents may begin the mad dash to get their child into more programs then ever before.

From now until Jan. 17, parents may sign up their students for five programs of their choice on the school district website. Four new middle school career academies have been added to the 16 middle, 13 elementary and 42 high school programs on the list. Two elementary schools — Gulf Beaches in St. Pete Beach and Kings Highway in Clearwater — also may reopen as technology magnets for the 2014-15 school year.

The new programs are good news for parents who have struggled to enroll their children in their preferred school in the past. Last school year, 43 percent of the more than 9,000 students signing up for application programs weren’t accepted into any of their choices. Each student may apply to five programs, ranked by order of preference.

Fundamental schools historically have been the most difficult programs to get into. Madeira Beach Fundamental Elementary received 1,644 applications last school year, the most in the school district, but invited only 109 students to attend. Of the middle school programs, Madeira Beach Fundamental received the most applications, with 1,195 applying and 280 receiving invitations. Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle followed closely with 1,126 applications and 226 invitations. Osceola Fundamental High in Largo got 1,310 applications and invited 593.

Performing arts programs typically receive fewer applications, but have strict qualifications for accepted students. The Center for the Arts at John Hopkins Middle received only 29 applications for its band program and invited 19 students, only five of whom accepted. International Baccalaureate programs also were popular, with the St. Petersburg High program receiving 481 applications and inviting 193.

The school district has posted a comprehensive guide to the online “Student Reservation System,” but parents also may attend one of three “Application Assistance Nights” hosted by the school district. All three sessions will be from 6 to 8 p.m.,:

• Thursday – Sandy Lane Elementary School, 1360 Sandy Lane, Clearwater

• Tuesday – Gibbs High School, 850 34th St. S., St. Petersburg.

• Thursday, Jan. 16 – The school district’s Student Assignment Office, 301 Fourth St. SW, Largo

Some schools are hosting open houses and can arrange tours for interested students.

Students should make sure they meet the specific requirements for a program before applying.

The requirements are be listed online and available by calling individual schools. Students won’t receive any notifications from the school or school district to let them know if they’ve been accepted into a program. Parents must check the school district’s Student Reservation System from Feb. 6-13 to view their waiting list status, and any program invitations must be accepted before midnight, Feb. 13.

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Twitter: @adawsonTBO

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