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Pasco County families challenge school district’s latest rezoning effort

By Jeffrey Solochek
Pasco County school district officials have proposed reassigning about 900 west-side students into different schools for 2018-19. [Pasco County School District]

A group of west-side Pasco County parents whose neighborhood might be reassigned to different middle and high schools has asked the School Board to consider different options they suggest would cost less money and angst.

The parents, including leaders of the lawsuit that resulted in a ruling against the district's past practices, have submitted a proposal to "draw out" the current process, that is slated to culminate with a board vote on May 1.

They rely on the language of the state rule-making law, which they insisted the district follow in 2016 and 2017. One of their concerns is that the district did not provide a sufficient analysis of the regulatory costs associated with the rezoning.

They said the district has not discussed the expenses of added student busing, for example, or of lowered property values that might reduce tax revenue.

School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso told the School Board he plans to respond to that request for information on costs. He did not elaborate.

The parents also have argued that the district might pursue lower cost regulatory actions, such as adding wings to existing schools, or conducting a thorough check of all student addresses. They also call for an outside consultant to draw boundary lines.

Those are some of the same demands they made when the district first embarked upon west-side rezoning in fall 2016.

"It is our sincere hope that you will accept these alternatives in the spirit of collaboration in which they were created and submitted and that further legal conflict will not be necessary," parent Jim Stanley wrote in a letter to the district.

District planning director Chris Williams said he is working on a response to the parents.

The group finally asked for a "draw out" of the procedure, contending the district's planned March 12 public workshop on the rezoning proposal will not provide adequate opportunity for people with interests to explain their views and receive answers. They noted the district had not listed any steps to be taken at the workshop to provide necessary protections under the law.

Superintendent Kurt Browning said he intended to conduct the workshop as intended, and said the residents could attend to determine at that point whether their concerns are in fact met.

Stanley said his group had been coordinating with other neighborhoods that might be affected, and each is working on its own responses and concerns.