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Making Sense of School Options in Our Area

Today parents searching for the ideal educational fit for their child are faced with numerous choices.

Not only are private schools varied and plentiful, new programs within the public school system also offer exciting new educational opportunities. Navigating the choices can be daunting. Below, we offer an overview of a number of the options available in our area.

Private Schools

Private schools function autonomously, generating their own funding through various sources like student tuition, private grants and endowments. Private schools vary tremendously in size and focus. According to the 2013-14 Private School Universe Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, 68 percent of all private schools have a religious affiliation.

There are many reasons why parents turn to private school. Some are looking for a faith-based education. Others may seek out private education for the smaller class sizes, a sense of community, openness to parental involvement or rigorous academic standards. Families may choose to enroll their children in private school from day one or transition into private school at the middle or high school level.

The key is finding the school that meets your child’s educational and emotional needs, as well as the needs of the family as a whole. A great place to start is with the school’s mission statement. The mission statement tells what the school stands for and what they expect from their students. A school can have an impeccable reputation, with test scores and college acceptance rates that are off the charts, but if that school’s mission is not in keeping with a family’s values, chances are it will not be a good match.

Once the playing field has been narrowed, it is essential to visit potential schools. Depending on the schools in question, there may be several options for visiting – from an open house to a private tour to a shadow day where the prospective student attends a day attending the school to get a feel for the environment.

Cost will inevitably be a deciding factor when choosing a private school. Getting answers to questions regarding tuition and payment plans up front will help avoid disappointment down the road. Parents should also inquire as to any additional costs that are not included in the tuition. Yet if a school seems out of reach initially, parents should not rule it out right away. Many schools have financial aid available—never be afraid to ask.

Transportation: Transportation options vary by school and may be unavailable at some schools.

Application process: Private schools are not required to accept all applicants and admission to some schools can be highly competitive. The application timeline and process vary. Check with individual schools of interest for important dates and application requirements.

For More Information: The Open House Guide located in this issue of the WOW is a great place to start. It lists information and upcoming open house dates for some of the top private schools in the area. Private School Review ( offers a listing of more than 100 private schools in the Tampa Bay.

Attendance Area Schools

Attendance area schools are those set by the Hillsborough County School Board based on a student’s residential address. Because these schools cannot deny admission to any child within the residential school zone, they are designed to meet the needs of a broad student population. In turn, at the middle and high school level, they generally offer a wide range of extracurricular and athletic programs to cater to a diverse student body.

Westchase and the surrounding Northwest neighborhoods are zoned for top-quality schools across all grade levels. Zoned schools in our area include: Westchase, Lowry, Mary Bryant and Deer Park elementary schools; Davidsen and Farnell middle schools and Alonso and Sickles high schools. Parents can visit to determine the specific schools their children are zoned for based on the home address.

Transportation: Transportation is provided to all attendance area schools; however, students who live less than 2 miles from a school are not eligible for transportation.

How to Apply: Families do not need to complete an application for their children to attend or remain at their attendance area school; they simply need to register when the child is first entering school. Contact the specific attendance area school for registration information.

School Choice

The School Choice program offers parents and guardians of children entering kindergarten through 11th grade the option of applying to up to three non-magnet schools or Career and Technical Education (CTE) attractor schools outside their attendance area. Relatively new to the educational mix, CTE attractors schools are focused academies where the education consists of courses and projects that flow from the school’s main emphasis—from bio-engineering to finance to film production.

Transportation: Transportation may be limited or unavailable in some areas. For more information visit


Application Process: The application for school choice for currently enrolled K-4th grade students and all students applying to middle and high school begins Oct. 26, 2018 at noon and ends Dec. 31, 2018. Families will be notified in mid-February. These students can apply online at A lis.t of eligible schools appears directly on the school choice application. (Note: students new to Hillsborough County Public Schools are required to complete a paper application).

For More Information: Visit or call the (813) 272-4692.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are public elementary, middle and high schools that offer a theme-based curriculum. While magnet schools are based on a specific theme, students study a complete range of subjects with a focus on hands-on learning that is inquiry and performance based. Hillsborough County Public Schools magnet philosophy maintains that magnet schools “connect kids to the real world.”

STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and IB (International Baccalaureate) programs are particularly popular among Westchase and Northwest families who choose the magnet route. However, there are numerous magnet opportunities that appeal to a wide range of interests, including animal science, architecture, performing arts, environmental studies and many more. 

Transportation: Transportation is available for most magnet schools. In some areas, transportation may be limited. For more information visit


Application Process: The application period for students currently enrolled in K-4th grade and all students applying to middle and high school begins Oct. 26, 2018 at noon and ends Dec. 31, 2018. Families will be notified in mid-February. These students can apply online at (Note.: students new to Hillsborough County Public Schools or coming from private school are required to complete a paper application).

Students may apply to the magnet schools of their choice with the exception of IB schools, which are dictated by the student’s address. Our assigned IB programs are as follows: McFarlane Park Elementary, Walker Middle Magnet and Robinson High School. Homes north of Race Track Road attend Hillsborough High’s IB program.

Selection for elementary or middle magnet schools is done by computer lottery. Applications for all high school magnet programs are evaluated on a competitive basis.

For More Information: Visit or call the (813) 272-4692.

Parent information nights that cover both school choice and magnet options for prospective elementary, middle and high school students will be held Nov. 2 at Jefferson High School and again Nov. 13 at Tampa Bay Tech. Both sessions will run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. In addition, parents and prospective students can attend an interactive information session at the Florida State Fairgrounds Nov. 2. Tentative times are 3-7 p.m. Visit closer to the event date to confirm location and time.

Charter Schools

Charter schools are tuition-free, public schools of choice that operate under a performance contract, or “charter,” which affords the school more flexibility in its operations than is typically granted to a traditional public school. Charter schools are public in the sense that they are funded through the Florida Education Finance Program in the same manner that district schools are funded. They are also required to provide a curriculum that meets the Sunshine State Standards and are accountable to the school district in which they reside.

Unlike a traditional public school or magnet program, however, they are not managed by the school district. Charter schools hire their own teachers, design their own curriculum and manage their own finances. Furthermore, while charter schools in Florida are required to hire certified teachers, they are not required to be unionized. This allows for more freedom to hire and remove teachers as the school sees fit.

There are currently 50 charter schools within Hillsborough County, with areas of study that range from performing arts to technology to health sciences.

Transportation: Transportation to a charter school cannot be a barrier for enrollment or attendance. To find out about transportation arrangements for a charter school, contact the school directly.

Application Process: Charter schools must open their enrollment to all students in the district. Enrollment periods vary and each charter school has its own process that is approved through the school’s board. To find out about a specific school's process, contact the school directly.

For More Information: A complete list of Charter Schools, including contact information, is available at


Virtual Schools

Advances in online education have made virtual schools a mainstream choice for today’s students. “Online courses offer students and families an option to create an education plan that is focused on an individual student's needs. District virtual programs offer families the best of both worlds: cutting edge curriculum that meets state standards, supported by highly qualified local teachers, in a flexible, personalized setting. Students are no longer limited by schedule conflicts, course selections at a local school, class size caps, or even bell schedules and seat time,” stated JoAnne Glenn, principal at Pasco eSchool.
Hillsborough Virtual School (HVS) is a school choice option for students entering grades K‐12. HVS students are taught by Hillsborough County teachers for each online class. “Virtual students will need to have reliable internet, telephone and email access. Families considering online courses should be comfortable using the computer and internet to complete assignments, research and projects, and also be comfortable using email and telephone communication as a primary means for teacher-student and parent-teacher communication,” Glenn added.

Students can also take advantage of co-enrollment through HVS, in which students enrolled in full-time public or private school take online classes during or in addition to their school day. Class selection and registration is handled by the guidance counselor at the student’s physical school.

Families who wish to home school and file a “Letter of Intent to Home Educate” may use HVS to fulfill curriculum needs.

According to Glenn, other online options to consider include the following: state virtual school programs (Florida Virtual School), virtual charter schools (where available) and virtual programs operated by other school districts.
Application Process: For HVS, the application window for full‐time enrollment is May through August for first semester start and again October through early January for second semester start. There are no eligibility requirements for students entering grades K‐5; however, students entering grades 6‐12 full‐time must meet one of the following eligibility requirements: prior year in a Florida public school; sibling of virtual student enrolled in current and end of previous year; military dependents who moved to Florida in past year; or, student enrolled in a district virtual, charter or Florida Virtual School (FLVS) program.

For more Information: For HVS, visit or call (813) 983-7278. For Florida Virtual school, visit  For more on virtual education throughout Florida, visit
. Decisions regarding a child’s education, particularly at the middle and high school level, can leave parents reeling. It is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all option. With so many great options in our area, it really is hard to go wrong.

By Karen Ring

WOW Education Summaries

WOW thanks the following schools for helping to bring you our Education Special.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The business listings on these pages represent paid advertisements in conjunction with WOW’s Education Special. Paid advertising is not an endorsement by WOW, Inc. Interested residents should contact the businesses and ask all relevant questions prior to enrolling.

Berkeley Preparatory School
(813) 885-1673

An independent, Episcopal day school for boys and girls in Pre-K to Grade 12 dedicated to putting people in the world who make a positive difference. Learn more at
Cambridge Christian School
(813) 872-6744

Cambridge Christian School has served Tampa for over 53 years! Strong foundations, Biblical worldview, and a sense of community result in an exceptional academic experience.

Carrollwood Day School
(813) 920-2288

Carrollwood Day School is the first IB World School in Florida fully authorized to offer the complete continuum of IB programs from preschool through upper school. Visit CDS at
Corbett Preparatory School of IDS
(813) 961-3087

An extraordinary environment for learning in Tampa since 1968. International Baccalaureate Programme for all students in PreK3-8th grade. Visit us at


Kids ‘R’ Kids
(813) 926-5437

Kids R Kids Learning Academy, opened since 1999, provides care for infants through Pre-K and after-school children.

Primavera Preschool
(813) 855-6718

Primavera Preschool is a private, family-owned business that strives for excellence in early childhood education along with their exclusive infant care. Experience the difference...

Rainbow Garden Preschool
(727) 799-2700

The Rainbow Garden is a long-established Christian preschool providing a well-balanced curriculum that develops a strong foundation for reading, writing, science and math skills and includes art and music.

Tampa Preparatory School
(813) 251-8481

Our innovative teaching methods and active learning environments have been inspiring future business, cultural and civic leaders since 1974. Join us for Open House!
Westlake Christian School
(727) 781-3808

Westlake Christian School’s college preparatory learning environment is accredited by the Florida Kindergarten Council, the Florida Council of Independent Schools, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/AdvancED.

The Goddard School
(813) 926-9820

For 30 years, The Goddard School has been a trusted name among families. Its classrooms are safe, nurturing environments for children six weeks to six years.

Montessori House Day School
(813) 884-7220

Authentic Montessori education in Tampa's only American Montessori Society accredited school.  Schedule a tour to learn about our individualized curriculum and child-centered, nurturing classrooms.

KidsPark Oldsmar
(727) 210-5958

KidsPark provides hourly daycare. Pay only for time used. Our centers are fully licensed. Our open "no walls" floor plan allows continuous teacher observation.

Smart Start Pre-Prep
(813) 855-7333

Smart Start Pre-Prep is celebrating 25 years of early childhood education. Our programs include meals and fun weekly educational themes for ages 6 weeks to 12 years.

Westchase Music School
(813) 925-0102

Join us at Westchase Music School! Tampa’s premiere school where hundreds of children come each week to study music in a fun and professional environment!

Tampa Day School
(813) 269-2100, Ext. 306

Since 1970, our unique educational approach and specialized tutoring have empowered students with Dyslexia, ADHD, and anxiety to succeed in school and in life. Visit us at


April Reinhart – French Tutor
(813) 855-5612

Teacher with a bachelor's degree in French education providing private tutoring services for ages 5 to adult for private, public and homeschool students. Email

Hillsborough Academy of Math and Science

Accredited public charter school for Grades K-8. Offering the Cambridge Program and a balanced curriculum with enrichment in science, technology, engineering, arts and math education.


Avant Garde Academy Westchase
(813) 551-2144

It's not too late to enroll your students in Grades K-7.  Come see why our families choose us!

Arts and Smarts, Inc
(813) 991-4128

Arts and Smarts, Inc. is your neighborhood source for personalized tutoring, delivered by tutors with a wealth of teaching experience, specialized training and subject expertise.


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