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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Committee narrowly adopts new attendance zones for west Pasco middle, high schools



With dozens of residents watching, a panel of parents and educators narrowly reached agreement Thursday on a controversial effort to draw new attendance zones for southwest Pasco County middle and high schools.

The commmittee spent nearly four hours poring over boundary lines, enrollment projections and expected growth before arriving at its recommendation. Its one-vote margin reflected the divisions within the community as families in various subdivisions advocated to keep their children in crowded Mitchell High and Seven Springs Middle schools.

The district administration chose to rezone to balance enrollment among area schools, some of which have several open seats, and to prepare for anticipated population growth. The very announcement of the effort in August drew an immediate backlash, with calls for delay, student address verifications and other alternatives to boundary revisions.

Parents have attended every board meeting since, always dressed in red, to register their concern and push to leave their schools alone.

As the committee ended its work, some parents walked away happy, with others less so.

"I'm happy with the outcome for my neighborhood, but I feel sad for the neighborhoods that have to leave," said Kelly Cuneo, whose Hunting Creek subdivision was left in the Mitchell-Seven Springs zone.

Key communities slated to move to the River Ridge zone are Longleaf and Starkey Ranch. Deer Park neighborhoods that had been suggested to move into the Gulf zone from River Ridge ended up staying put. A couple of other smaller changes also were made.

The second proposal, which narrowly failed, would have moved several neighborhoods along the western edge of Mitchell's boundary into Anclote High. Committee members said they did not want to push Anclote, which is slated to add a new advanced magnet program, to where it would be over capacity, as well.

David Davis, a leader of the push to delay the rezoning, brought his own proposal to the table. It did not survive.

"I thought it had a shot there. They really should have taken more time to look at it," Davis, who sat on the committee, said after the meeting.

He predicted that, whatever map the School Board ultimately approves, the enrollment figures at each school will not be the same as those talked about during the meeting. Even so, he said the rezoning model was as good as it could have been, given the time and restrictions.

"It was as fair as it can be," said Davis, adding he would make some changes to the timing of the process. "We were choosing between two bad options."

Committee member Jennifer Pickering, who represented Anclote High, said she was satisfied with the group's effort and looked forward to the School Board's decision. She acknowledged how tough, and emotional, the work can be.

"If you want to please everybody, no one is going to move," Pickering said. "Someone has to move."

The School Board is scheduled to hold its first public hearing on the proposed map, which has yet to be formally drawn, on Dec. 20. Its final vote is expected Jan. 17.

[Last modified: Thursday, November 17, 2016 12:46pm]


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