New south St. Pete school offers an alternative curriculum

NorthStar Academies offers an alternative curriculum designed to give children who are considered overage for their grade level an opportunity to complete the necessary credits to graduate high school

BY Nicole Slaughter Graham, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — On Saturday, Aug. 1, Chatiela Underwood, regional project manager of NorthStar Academies, stood in front of a long table piled high with lime green shirts. She worked on straightening the piles of clothing, each of which donned the school’s blue logo.

In preparation for the school’s open house, an archway of blue and green balloons decorated the front door. To the right of the door stood another table with various school supplies stacked neatly in rows, to the left, a table full of snacks.

Located in the Pinellas Point neighborhood — almost directly across the street from Bay Point Middle School — NorthStar Academy of Pinellas will serve children in grades seven through 12 and is scheduled to open on Aug. 24 for the fall term. The school’s schedule will follow that of the Pinellas County School District.

NorthStar Academies hired Dr. Tanya Chauncey has its principal academic officer. She will serve as the principal of the Pinellas campus. Chauncey has more than 30 years of experience as an educator and administrator, most of which was in Polk County.

The school offers an “alternative curriculum,” said director of communications, Michael Serpe, which is designed to give children who are considered “overage” for their grade level an opportunity to complete the necessary credits to graduate high school. According to Underwood, NorthStar Academy of Pinellas works with students up to age 21.

“Students have the opportunity to choose an education path that is geared toward college readiness, career development, or enrollment into a technical school after graduation,” Serpe said.

All of these tracks are designed with credit recovery in mind. Serpe said this ensures that students complete the necessary learning requirements dictated by the state for graduation.

NorthStar Academy of Pinellas will offer three career options for students interested in learning a trade while enrolled: barbering, nursing assistant and home health aide.

Serpe said an education path for each student is chosen based on what they are interested in and their past performance in their previous school.

The curriculum for all programs is designed as a hybrid offering, with in-class and online instruction. This, said Serpe, is a benefit in light of COVID-19.

“If in-person education isn’t going to work right now, we will provide all students with the technology they need to ensure that they can learn remotely,” he said. “We offer a blended curriculum as part of our normal operations, so students and teachers will be able to transition easily.”

Serpe said that if it’s necessary for students to attend school fully online, orientation sessions will be provided, so students and parents have the information they need for the transition. If the Pinellas County School Board recommends online learning due to the coronavirus, then Northstar Academy of Pinellas will follow suit. Otherwise, the current plan is to move forward with the school’s blended format.

In addition to school supplies and necessary technical equipment, the charter school will also provide students with free breakfast and lunch, said Underwood. This will be available to all students, whether they are learning from home or in the classroom.

“We will have food here in the multipurpose room for students who are on campus, and for students who are learning from home, we will send home enough food to serve as breakfast and lunch for five days a week,” Underwood said.

At the time of the open house, 50 students had already been enrolled in the school. Its capacity, said Serpe, is 500.

“We’re hopeful to have a full school, but it’s extremely difficult since everything associated with coronavirus needs to be taken into consideration.”

If you are looking for an alternative to Pinellas County Schools, please call NorthStar Academies at 844-422-7827 or visit northstaracademies.com.

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