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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Angry Pasco parents accuse school district of missteps, vow to fight attendance zone revisions

About 50 parents watched an advisory committee make its final proposal for east Pasco County middle and high school boundaries Friday. Many walked away angry.

Jeffrey S. Solochek

About 50 parents watched an advisory committee make its final proposal for east Pasco County middle and high school boundaries Friday. Many walked away angry.

5

December

To say the residents of Wesley Chapel's Seven Oaks subdivision are upset would be an understatement.

Stung by a last-minute recommendation Friday to rezone their homes into a new middle and high school boundary, parents who just weeks ago praised an advisory committee for its "fair" work that left them alone blistered School Board members over the weekend with criticism.

Several used the same language, complaining of an "unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority; illegally allowing a committee of volunteers to rezone my child." The committee, comprised of parents and school district employees, voted on a recommendation to the School Board. The board did not relinquish its authority, and intends to adopt the boundaries as it sees fit at its Jan. 17 meeting.

Many Seven Oaks residents demanded a parent town hall meeting similar to the one held Nov. 29, before they knew of the committee's flip on the maps.

"Our voices need to be heard by our elected officials!" wrote Kimberly Russell. "There will be an emergency Parent Meeting Call of Accountability Thursday, Dec 15, 2016 at 6 pm at Seven Oaks Clubhouse."

Board members noted, however, that they will have a regular meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, as well as public hearings on the proposed rezonings at 6 p.m. on Dec. 20 and Jan. 17. They said those sessions, along with the many emails they are receiving, provide ample room for input before the final vote.

Some parents said they were so upset with the latest proposal that they would fight school district efforts to collect more money supporting new school construction. The School Board is expected to formally ask the County Commission to increase school impact fees when it meets Dec. 20.

"If our kids are rezoned to [Wesley Chapel High School] and Weightman [Middle], we will fight our county commissioners to avoid increasing impact fees to prevent our kids from a double rezone," wrote parent Debbie Weik, among others.

She referred to district plans to zone Seven Oaks into the new Cypress Creek Middle-High School boundary in four to seven years, when a middle school is built on the campus. District leaders have expressed a preference not to make children move schools multiple times.

This desire, along with concerns over traffic congestion and campus crowding, along with assorted accusations of wrongdoing and uninformed decision-making, will become the expected line of attack as passionate parents continue to try to keep their children's schooling future intact.

School Board member Steve Luikart said he anticipated the angry response, from both the east and west side middle and high school rezoning efforts. For himself, Luikart said he would like to see at least two viable options, along with all the data, so he can make the best decision.

"Any time this takes place, there's going to be a left and a right -- those who feel left out, and those who feel you got it right," Luikart said. "You can never make everybody happy."

[Last modified: Monday, December 5, 2016 3:20pm]

    

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