LARGO, Fla. -- The Pinellas County school board unanimously approved a contract with a Palm Beach education company authorizing it to takeover three underperforming schools if they do not improve by the end of this academic year.

Lakewood Elementary, Fairmount Park Elementary and Azalea Middle are the three schools that could soon be in the hands of Learning Sciences International.

The move is the result of HB 7069, the controversial piece of legislation educators across the state have criticized for its ability to privatize education and take control away from local districts.

Under the bill, struggling schools that have earned a D or an F-rating from the state for three consecutive years have three options: close the school and reassign the students, close it and reopen as a charter or to partner with an “external operator.”

While all three options could cause unsettling change for students, parents and the community, Pinellas officials said the third option would cause the least amount of disruption.

The district could pay LSI $144,000 per school for the 2017-18 school year, and between $198,000 and $624,000 per school between 2018 and 2023.

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with 10News WTSP. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You can also email her at

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