Traditional Schools, on the rise compared to your IB, STEM and Magnet Schools in Tampa Bay


Ishitha Panguluri, Staff Writer

Freedom High School, a traditional high school, is rising to the top of preferences compared to Tampa’s International Baccalaureate, STEM, and Magnet schools.
“We were number three out of 20 high schools in industry certifications, earning right under Middleton,” said Mr. Matthew Smith, Assistant Principal of Curriculum.
Because of budgeting reasons, teachers have been cut in almost all schools, making it harder to offer certain AP classes or electives. In retrospect, the students are not able to add classes in their schedule.
Each school (whether IB or regular) is specialized in its particular curriculum which is the root attractor for both parents and students when it comes to choosing a high school.
Magnet schools offer their curriculum, IB schools offer their diploma, and traditional schools like Freedom? They offer students the ability to be flexible between their courses, sports, and extracurriculars.
“I am not given many options when it comes to selecting courses I am interested in, because we have to follow this certain path,” expressed Savaji Vora, a former King student who now attends Freedom. When selecting to attend these high schools, what students are not aware of is the rigor when it comes to coursework or just managing time with the assigned courses.
“Some have realized that the IB diploma program isn’t necessarily what they want, and now they can come to traditional schools and get the same AP or Dual Enrollment courses,” Smith added.
“The IB diploma is about the name recognition, and students are now understanding their personal decision.” Smith also expressed his thoughts on whose decision it truly is to go to these schools: the student’s or the parent’s. Most of the time, students are conditioned to go to a specific school for most of their life in school. Parents pre-plan their child’s path from kindergarten, they are set to send their child to these schools regardless of how many hours you may get stuck in traffic, just to get to the school.
Vora emphasized while thinking about those long car rides in traffic, “Especially since Magnet and IB school are located in the same area and start and end around the same timings, I usually find myself in the car for around two and a half hours. Quite frankly, it was draining.”
Most of the students do not prefer to switch through bus transfer stations and spend their time on a bus to get to these Magnet and STEM schools. In contrast, going to your neighborhood school and getting the same classes (minus the specialty curriculum) is what really gave a nudge to those who want to save time and get the same classes. Having Freedom as a zoned school, worrying about transportation is the least of concern for most families.
Mr. John Olewski, math department head and swim coach, was a part of Middleton High School’s faculty before coming to Freedom. His reasoning behind the question of why parents commit to driving so far for these schools has brought attention to what these schools have that are the potential interests of students.
“Middleton has some unique curriculars that brings out the whole point of having a STEM- based curriculum.” Mr. Olewski explained, “When I was over there, Aerospace engineering, the fire academy programs, and the exceptional robotics program were what really interested those students to attend the program.” Freedom is touching bases with these schools when it comes to CTE certifications; now the programs are offering industry certifications from all the Adobe and Microsoft Suite to other digital academy programs. This is what truly makes this school exceptional as it is very competitive and de facto offers the same AP and dual enrollment classes in comparison to these IB and Magnet schools.
With an estimated count of 30 students here on choice (those who were zoned for other high schools), students took interest in the specific programs like our digital academy or veterinary sciences.
Freedom is smaller than those schools by around five or six-hundred students, and they decide to come here to start or continue their academic journey whether it is to land a 4-year scholarship at your dream school or get college credits early.
Vora expresses, “Attending my zoned high school gives me the opportunity to explore the different extra curriculars and sports, offering flexibility with my day-to-day classes.”