Despite some concerns about moving too fast, the Pasco County School Board on Tuesday agreed to convert Ridgewood High School into a magnet technical school starting next fall.
All current Ridgewood students will be rezoned to other traditional district schools, most likely Fivay or Gulf high schools. They would have to reapply to access the technical programs, which will include robotics and health fields.
“I am excited that we are finally talking about doing something that I have been talking about for 4 or 5 or 6 years,” said board member Allen Altman. “My wish was that when we were doing this, we were doing two of them.”
Superintendent Kurt Browning consistently has focused his recommendation to the board on the need to provide additional schooling options to teens who are not necessarily on a track for college.
The haste became necessary, Browning said, because of Ridgewood's precarious status with the state accountability system. The school has received D grades the past two years, and a third D would force the district to take dramatic steps to turn it around.
Browning said he wanted to keep the school's destiny fully in the district's control.
Board vice chairwoman Alison Crumbley acknowledged the difficulty of the district's position.
“I feel that I am a bit backed into a corner here with this decision,” Crumbley said. “And I don’t like being backed into a corner. It’s not a decision.”
She listed several concerns she had about the plan, which now is on a fast track so students can apply in January. But Crumbley ultimately joined the majority in supporting the plan.
Only board member Steve Luikart voted against the proposal. He said he supports technical education, but was troubled by the lack of answers to many questions.
He also argued that the district should have tended to Ridgewood's problems long ago.
“I think we should fix schools, not shut them down,” Luikart said.
The district plans to begin the rezoning process immediately. The plan calls for a public workshop on a map proposal at 7 p.m. Nov. 28 at Ridgewood, followed by a board hearing 6 p.m. Dec. 19 and final board vote Jan. 16.