Committee reaches agreement on new boundaries for east Pasco middle, high schools
After three meetings, a committee of parents and school district officials arrived at a plan Thursday to finally ease the enrollment crunch at its two most crowded schools, Wiregrass Ranch High and John Long Middle. Wiregrass Ranch, which has about 2,500 students enrolled, would be able to end two years of double sessions, with upperclassmen attending first through seventh periods and freshmen fourth through tenth periods.
To accomplish that goal, however, the committee proposed new attendance zones that would push the county's newest middle-high school GGG, which opens in the fall on Old Pasco Road, well above its 1,800-student capacity.
"We don't like that idea, but it's the reality that we have, because most of these schools are going to still be over," district planning director Chris Williams said.
He suggested that the district's plan to build a new middle school on the Old Pasco Road site, about three to five years from now, will relieve GGG with many students already assigned there at that time.
Kimberly Poe, who oversees the Wiregrass Ranch High feeder pattern for the superintendent's office, said GGG won't be as crowded as its 2,400-student zone suggests because seniors won't attend at first, and other families might use choice to leave. She expected the new school to manage.
"I just think we're going to have to be really strategic and smart about the resources we put into that school," Poe said.
The recommendation, culled from 28 maps (14 for middle schools, 14 for high schools), moves much of Meadow Pointe from Wiregrass Ranch and John Long into Wesley Chapel High and Weightman Middle, which would see many of their neighborhoods relocated to GGG. The group considered transferring the Seven Oaks subdivision, which has nearly 1,000 middle- and high-school aged students, but decided against it for the time being.
Members warned that Seven Oaks stands to be rezoned when a new middle school opens on Old Pasco Road.
"We are realistic that our long-term viability there (in Wiregrass Ranch and John Long) is in jeopardy," said Mark McBride, a Seven Oaks parent who offered a community proposal to the committee. "We felt this time around, it made sense to stay. ... We think they acted responsibly."
The committee also decided to pull students out of Sunlake High and Rushe Middle, two crowded Land O'Lakes schools that have no space to grow, and place them in GGG. About 675 middle- and high school students in the Sunlake communities east of Livingston Road would be affected.
Parent Monica Gonzalez, who served on the committee, lives in the rezoned area. She could have one child at GGG and another at Sunlake next fall.
"We'll make it work," Gonzalez said. "It's hard. I don't think you can please everyone. A lot of us got rezoned here at the table. But bottom line, we had to go with the numbers and what makes sense."
The Wesley Chapel area rezoning has not generated the rancor and divide that has rocked the Trinity community, where a separate middle and high school rezoning is under way. Many Trinity parents, who do not have a new school opening nearby, are pressing for a delay in any changes, to avoid their children leaving Mitchell High and Seven Springs Middle. So far, the district has not relented.
Most involved in the Wesley Chapel effort praised the process, saying it resulted in the best outcome they could agree upon.
"When people don't come with an agenda and you can realistically look at a situation, you can at least come to a manageable result," John Long principal Christine Wolff said.
Parent Mara Keys agreed.
"Everyone was involved," said Keys, whose family would remain at Wiregrass Ranch. "Changes are inevitable. There are going to be happy parents and unhappy parents."
The committee will present its recommendation at a parent meeting 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at Wesley Chapel High. The School Board is expected to consider the boundaries before Feb. 1.