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Pinellas expands parental choice options
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Teachers for the new Centers for Innovation and Digital Learning receive hands on training on how to integrate newly issued iPads into classroom curriculum.
With more than 150 schools including magnets, career academies, adult education centers and a virtual school, Pinellas County Schools offers families more than 60 parental choice programs to serve students.

Families have a wealth of choices suited to individual student’s interests, talents and abilities, from neighborhood and magnet schools to leadership programs and gifted studies. In fact, the district saw a substantial uptick in student applications to its choice programs over the last two years. This school year, PCS will implement even more options.

The district is launching the Centers for Innovation and Digital Learning at the elementary level. PCS will open Gulf Beaches Elementary in St. Pete Beach and Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater. The schools will provide a technology rich environment with iPads for all students in grades K-5, project-based learning, personalized learning geared to students’ individual needs, interactive online lessons, as well as face-to-face lessons that encourage students to be critical thinkers.

At the middle school level, PCS is beginning a new Cambridge Pre-Advanced International Certificate of Education program at Pinellas Park and Tarpon Springs middle schools. The accelerated method of study of the pre-AICE program provides rigor and relevance to prepare students to seamlessly transition to any advanced academic program at the high school level.

Tarpon Springs Middle also will benefit from a new Leadership Conservatory of the Arts. The new magnet program mirrors the highly successful Leadership Conservatory at Tarpon Springs High, and will allow students the opportunity to immerse themselves in leadership and the arts for six full years as they progress from the middle grades to high school.

Also this year, the district is starting the innovative Middle Grades Engineering Gateway to Technology programs at Azalea Middle, and a middle grades program at East Lake High. The STEM-focused program, based on the acclaimed Project Lead the Way curriculum, is project-based to challenge and engage the natural curiosity of middle school students.

In an effort to step up efforts to transition high school students to college and career, PCS will open a new school that will serve students grades 9 - 12 who are at risk of dropping out.

The school, located at the site of Gulf Coast Academy Charter School in Largo, will offer extended hours in the morning and evening.

This will give students the flexibility to engage in their coursework. Students will work at their own pace to master benchmarks, and teachers will provide whole and small group instruction as needed. Students who attend the school also will be able to participate in digital music and art electives.

Earlier this year, the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C., ranked PCS 19 out of 107 large districts nationwide for providing parents with educational choices for their students. Pinellas County Schools will continue to create educational pathways. With even more parental choice options on the horizon, students’ options are almost limitless.

Produced by the PCS Office of Strategic Communications.
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