MANATEE -- Manatee County parents have until Feb. 3 to participate in school choice, an option that already is appealing to more than 30 percent of the districts 45,000 students.
With magnet programs at 10 elementary and middle schools, 20 career academies among the countys six high schools, and increased choices among charter schools, dual enrollment and virtual schools, district officials expect even more families to exercise their right of choice this coming year.
The Feb. 3 deadline is only for families participating in open enrollment, which allows parents to send their children to a school other than their assigned go-to school based on geography.
Its very important to Manatee County to empower families with choice, says School Board Chair Harry Kinnan. Weve made marvelous strides with it.
They also expect the myriad choices may be overwhelming to some parents.
There really is a chance that parents may get a little confused because youve got so many magnet schools, schools operated by the school board, and charter schools that run more independently, says Danny Lundeen, the districts supervisor of student demographics, projections and assignment.
The opportunities out there have expanded so greatly, I could see there could be some opportunity for confusion.
Here are some key points to help parents make the most of their right to choose which school their children will attend:
n Parents with detailed questions about open enrollment and overall school choice should check out the following webpage: http://www.manatee.k12.fl.us/parents.html, and click on the School Choice tab.
They can also visit the Parent Information Center at 234 Manatee Ave. E. or call 941-708-4971.
n Families seeking to enroll high schoolers in academies, or who are interested in charter schools, can register at any time throughout the year, Lundeen says.
To register students in virtual schools, families should check out the weblink provided above, which also includes a link to virtual school information.
n Career academies offer high schoolers a chance to earn college credits and participate in hands-on learning, earn industry certifications, and learn from specialized instructors in a chosen career path. Each high school offers three to four academies.
n Transportation is provided only to elementary and middle schools within designated clusters and regions. Families who send their children to elementary and middle schools outside of the designated clusters or regions need to provide their own transportation. Transportation is not provided to high schoolers who choose academies outside of their districted zone.
Elementary school clusters are (1-North) Blackburn, Mills, Palmetto, Palm View, Tillman Magnet and Williams; (2-Southeast) Braden River, McNeal, Myakka City, Oneco, Tara and Willis; (3-West) Anna Maria, Ballard Magnet, Miller, Moody, Orange Ridge, Palma Sola, Rogers Garden, Sea Breeze and Stewart; (4-South) Abel, Bayshore, Daughtrey Magnet, Kinnan, Prine, Rowlett Magnet and Samoset; and (5-Northeast) Bashaw, Freedom, Gullett, Manatee Magnet, Wakeland Magnet and Witt.
Middle school regions are (Northeast) Buffalo Creek, Haile and Lincoln Magnet; (Southeast) Harllee Magnet, Braden River and Nolan; and (West) Johnson Magnet, Lee Magnet, King and Sugg.
n The public school district is charged with allotting school funds and resources even to charter schools. To help district officials allot the money in the most accurate and timely fashion, Lundeen encourages families to choose their schools within the next three months.
Weve tried to get everybody established early on so that this doesnt come down to a last-minute thing over the summer, Lundeen says. Particularly for those going from fifth to sixth, and from eighth to ninth, weve done a push for those students to make their choice.
n Three schools are closed to open enrollment because theyve reached their capacity. Those schools are Mills Elementary, King Middle School and Braden River High School.
Are you a parent who would like to share your experience with school choice and open enrollment in Manatee County? We want to hear from you. Contact Christine Hawes, Herald education reporter, at 941-745-7081.
CAREER ACADEMIES AVAILABLE
All six of Manatee Countys high schools now offer career academies, which give high schoolers a chance to specialize in their chosen career path. Below are the academies at each high school:
Health, Applied Science & Engineering
Arts & Communication
Business, Global Studies & Leadership
Braden River High
Arts & Communication Technology
Science Technology & Health
Engineering, Design & Leadership
Business & International Studies
Lakewood Ranch High
Business & Technology
Health & Public Service
Medical Arts & Sciences
Innovation, Design, Engineering & Art (IDEA)
Science, Health & Education
Arts, Communication & Design
Business, Law & Leadership
Visual & Performing Arts
Agriscience, Business & Consumer Science