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Scientologists to open parochial school

Title: Scientologists to open parochial school
Date: Tuesday, 26 May 1981
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Craig Roberton
Main source:

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CLEARWATER — Citing "social problems" in the public schools, the Church of Scientology has decided to open its own parochial school for children of its staff members.

Church spokesman Milt Wolfe said Monday the school will open by this fall in the former Quality Inn in the 2000 block of U.S. 19S, just north of Tri-City Plaza at U.S. 19 and E Bay Drive. The church bought the former motel in 1979 and uses it for staff quarters.

The school will cater to children from seventh grade through 12th grade, Wolfe said, adding that 24 students will enroll initially.

Wolfe said the school will have four classrooms, with a capacity of 36 students, and an administrative office. Four teachers will be assigned to the school. Some classes will double up in a single room with one teacher, Wolfe said.

ALL THE teachers will be accredited. Wolfe said, although not necessarily in Florida. Wolfe said the school itself probably will apply for accreditation, but he said that, by law, it must wait three years before applying.

Kenneth Watson, director of accreditation for Pinellas County schools, confirmed that private parochial schools do not have to seek accreditation. But Watson said such schools may apply for accreditation "at any time."

Wolfe said the head of the school — whom he identified as Jenny Sue Alexander — was an accredited teacher in New York for 15 years.

The students will study Scientology as well as academic courses "taken directly" from the Pinellas County school system's curriculum, Wolfe said.

Although parents will have the option of sending their children to the church school or the public schools, Wolfe said that, "to my knowledge, all the parents would like their children to be there."

Wolfe said the parents want their children to attend the private facility because they are concerned about "social problems," such as drug abuse, alcoholism and teenage pregnancy, at the county's middle and schools and high schools.

MOST OF THE children who will attend the new school now attend public schools, Wolfe said. Elementary-age pupils will continue to attend public schools, mostly at Belcher Elementary, he added.

Wolfe denied that the school is intended to further the church's "disconnect" policy, under which church members are allegedly isolated from the outside world to keep them from straying from Scientology.

"The Catholics are doing the same thing (placing their children in parochial schools)," Wolfe said, "so does the same criticism apply to them? Are the Catholics trying to withdraw from society, or are the parents more interested in their children's education?"

There is one hurdle facing the school: The church must obtain a zoning variance from the county to operate a school in a district zoned for commercial uses. An application for the zoning variance is pending, Wolfe said.