For their project, Gussie Lorenzo-Luaces and three classmates at Deer Park Elementary in Tampa, Fla., wanted to find out what kind of paper allows a paper airplane to fly the farthest. After five trial runs, they determined copy paper, with its smooth surface and stable weight, worked best.
The boys’ exhibit was among more than 1,800 presented at last week’s 33rd annual Hillsborough Regional STEM Fair, which featured 2,000 students from district schools, charter and private schools, and home schools.
That diversity was a big plus for Gussie’s mom, Susie, who was curious where other students in the county registered on the science track.
“I just feel they don’t need separation,’’ she said. “I like seeing them all together.’’
Increasingly, though, Hillsborough students are not all together in academic competitions.
In the past year, district officials have begun excluding charter schools from some districtwide contests, including Battle of the Books, a reading competition, and the Math Bowl and Math League for elementary and middle school students.
The reasons for the splintering are not clear. But everything from cost, to fear of competition, to a desire for charter schools to be more independent, has been suggested. At the least, the move points to potential pitfalls as school choice options mushroom across the landscape – even in a district with a choice-friendly reputation like Hillsborough.
“They’re all our children,” said Lillia Stroud of King’s Kids Academy of Health Science, a new charter in Tampa. Stroud said she can relate to the district’s concerns, but “separation at any level is disheartening.”