Education & Academics in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater
Finding the right schools and educational opportunities for each family member is an important part of any move. This chapter outlines the Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater area’s public schools system, private schools, charter schools and home schooling criteria, as well as local libraries and higher education institutions. To be enrolled in a Florida school, children must be 5 years old by Sept. 1 of the school year. Florida state law requires children who will be 6 years old by Feb. 1 of the school year to attend school regularly. For more information on compulsory attendance and other school information, visit the Florida Department of Education’s website at www.fldoe.org.
In addition, Florida requires all children entering school to have completed immunizations. For more information on required immunizations, visit the Florida Department of Health website at www.floridahealth.gov.
In 2010, Florida, along with the majority of other states, the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Department of Defense Education Activity, adopted Common Core State Standards that provide a consistent set of educational expectations for students regardless of ZIP code. When a family moves, a student’s education is often disrupted because the student may be forced to repeat material or learn at a different level at the new school. With common standards across states, this disruption will be reduced — of particular interest to military families. At present, national Common Core State Standards exist only for English language arts and mathematics though Common Core Standards are being developed for other subjects such as science and social studies as well. For more information, visit www.corestandards.org.
Charter schools are public schools of choice that are tuition-free, serve all students and have open enrollment. Charter schools are one of the fastest-growing school choice options in Florida. There are more than 40 charter schools in the Hillsborough school district and more than
20 charter schools in the Pinellas school district. For more information about the charter schools in Florida, visit the Florida Department of Education Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice’s website at www.fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/charter-schools.
For an introduction to home schooling in Florida, visit the Florida Department of Education’s website at www.fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/other-school-choice-options/home-edu. You will find information on home-school requirements and regulations, support for home education and more.
Florida Parent-Educators Association
255 East Drive, Suite H
Melbourne, FL 32904 877-275-3732
The Florida Parent-Educators Association provides support, guidance and information to thousands of Florida home-schooling families. The association helps home-schoolers network and share resources. Visit the association’s website for more information on home schooling in Florida, free resources and home schooling events.
To search for local private schools in Florida, visit the National Center for Education Statistics website and use the private school search tool at www.nces.ed.gov/surveys/pss/privateschoolsearch. Users may search by location, religious affiliation, school type and more.
Choosing a School
Choosing the right school is very important, so be sure to research each one before deciding. Contact the school by phone or by visiting its website, which is a valuable source to learn about school district statistics and curriculum. Talk to people in the area, especially friends and colleagues who already live there.
If the school shows promise, schedule a visit and bring a list of written questions about student-teacher ratios, computer availability, extracurricular activities, sports programs, music programs, gifted programs and grading standards.
Discuss the potential school with your child: what they liked and what they didn’t like. Your family’s ability to readily adapt to a move and to find happiness in your new home may depend, in part, on how happy your children are in their new school.
Hillsborough County Public Schools
901 E. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33602 813-272-4000
One of the largest school districts in the state and the eighth-largest in the nation, Hillsborough County Public Schools district serves more than 200,000 students with more than 25,000 employees. The district has over 200 schools, including elementary, middle and high schools, as well as two K-8 schools, four career centers, four HiTEC schools and 43 charters.
The district offers career and technical education programs for specialized training that can lead to high-wage, high-skill jobs and postsecondary education. Magnet schools offer theme-based, technology-rich programs taught by specially trained educators in smaller classes. The district’s charter schools, which are independent public schools operated by nonprofit organizations, are another alternative to traditional public schools in the district.
The district also offers before- and after-school programs, providing students in kindergarten through eighth grade with learning activities, as well as snacks and field trips. For more information on these programs, visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us or call 813-744-8941, ext. 3.
Pinellas County Schools
301 Fourth St. SW
Largo, FL 33770 727-588-6000
The seventh-largest district in Florida and the 26th-largest in the United States serves more than 100,000 students with just under 13,000 full-time employees. The district’s 150 schools include elementary, middle and high schools, as well as charter schools, magnet schools, a virtual school and other alternative options.
The district offers a wide variety of programs for special interest areas. District Application Programs include themed programs, career programs and fundamental programs, such as journalism and multimedia studies, culinary arts, graphic arts, engineering programs, medical professions programs and more.
Other district school options include fundamental schools and career academies. Fundamental schools are family-oriented schools with a structured environment, an updated “back-to-basics” approach and joint parent-teacher-student commitment. This approach includes a focus on student self-responsibility and discipline, daily homework, a strict dress code, mandatory conferences and monthly parent meetings. Career academies are four-year programs that blend a student’s required academic courses with the career technical program of the academy. The career technical programs prepare students for national and industry certifications, postsecondary education, entry into their chosen career and scholarships.