Pinellas County's failing schools may be privatized

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Schools with poor performing ratings in Pinellas County could soon have a private company step in to turn things around.

Last summer, Fairmont Park Elementary and Azalea Middle School received an F grade from the Florida Department of Education for their performance. 

Lakewood Elementary received a D.

Pinellas schools spokeswoman Lisa Wolf says because the schools have had failing grades for the last two years, a new state law passed in 2017 says they have to choose one of three options to improve learning unless they manage to improve over the summer.

The school system can either close each failing school and send the students elsewhere, hand the schools over to a private or charter school, or have a private company come in and run the classes.

The third option of privatization is what the board is expected to vote on Tuesday night.

“They would oversee all the instruction related to the academics,” Wolf said. “Pinellas would retain responsibilities for things like staff, bus transportation, and security.”

Learning Sciences International is the name of the company that has a track record for turning schools around.  

The board is expected to vote Tuesday evening to hand them the contract if the three schools fail for the third year in a row.

“We are doing everything to help those schools turn around,” Wolfe Said. “We want to be ready in the unlikely event we can’t.”

Getting the three schools back to C or above would save the school system millions of dollars. The Pinellas School Board is expected to approve the contract as a plan b.