FromThe St. Petersburg Times: The countdown has begun for eight Pinellas County (Fla.) schools that will close their doors for the last time on June 2. Amid end-of-year celebrations and sighs of relief that summer vacation is almost here, students and staffers at the six elementaries and two middle schools have been rehearsing good-byes and packing up decades of memories.

FROM JANUARY 2009: A charter school group says it would be willing to take over two of the seven Pinellas County (Fla.) schools slated for closure. Steve Christopoulos, the principal of Plato Academy in Clearwater, says the group "s prepared to assume occupancy and operate Coachman Middle School and Palm Harbor Elementary. The Pinellas School Board has voted to close both buildings as part of a larger effort to cut spending and address declining enrollment. Plato opened in 2005 and, after some early struggles, has steadily grown, with an enrollment this year of about 235 in grades K to 6.
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EARLIER: The Pinellas County (Fla.) School Board has approved a plan to close seven small schools and eliminate bus service for thousands of students. More than 3,000 students will be displaced by the closings, and the busing changes affect an additional 17,000. The district has projected that it is facing a deficit in the $60-million to $80-million range. The closings and bus changes are just a start, totaling about $13-million in cuts.
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FROM DECEMBER 2008: The Pinellas County (Fla.) School Board has tentatively approved a money-saving plan that would close several schools and force thousands of students to change schools next year. District officials say they have to close schools to deal with enrollment declines and a state fiscal crisis that has saddled Pinellas with a $48 million shortfall for 2009-10. All five elementary schools on the district's closing list have 400 or fewer students, compared with enrollments of 500 to 700 students at most Pinellas elementaries. Also on the small side, with about 600 students each, are the two fundamental middle schools — Southside and Coachman — that the district wants to close and relocate to other schools. To read The St. Petersburg Times article, click here.

EARLIER: The Pinellas County (Fla.) School Board is considering closing five elementary and two middle schools next year. The board also is looking at a a revised attendance-area plan that could uproot at least 40 percent of the district's elementary school population. The district could save millions as it deals with a serious budget crisis and declining enrollment. But many parents say the intangible toll on kids and families will be staggering as strong ties to schools are severed.
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FROM NOVEMBER 2008: Pinellas County (Fla.) school administrators have identified five elementary schools that could be closed next year as the district deals with budget problems and enrollment declines. The schools: Gulf Beaches in St. Pete Beach; Kings Highway and North Ward in Clearwater; Palm Harbor Elementary in Palm Harbor; and Rio Vista Elementary in St. Petersburg. A sixth school, Clearview Avenue Elementary in St. Petersburg, will close next year as previously planned.
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