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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas considers several zoning tweaks



A majority of the Pinellas County School Board indicated support today for a couple of potentially significant tweaks to its rezoning plan for middle and high schools.

One proposal would scale back a three-way zoning swap between Safety Harbor, Palm Harbor and Dunedin Highland middle schools. In its place, a single chunk on the east edge of Dunedin’s zone would be moved into Safety Harbor’s, bringing 65 sixth-graders with it this fall.

The second proposal would add 37 ninth-graders to the zone for Palm Harbor University High School. Their neighborhoods are now in the southeast corner of Tarpon Spring High’s zone, along Lake Tarpon.

Board member Robin Wikle supported the change, but acknowledged it could add to Palm Harbor’s overcrowding woes. “The concern will be when there’s a chance we’re hauling five more portables out there to add to the 39,” she said.

"We kept hearing how crowded Palm Harbor was," said board member Linda Lerner, referring to last fall's contentious debate about moving and downsizing the school's IB program. "I have concerns now about making it even higher."

After voting unanimously during a board meeting to give initial approval to the elementary re-zoning plan, the board went into a workshop where it continued to wrestle with some of the middle and high school changes.

Safety Harbor Middle parents have rallied against the rezoning, worried about changes in the school’s atmosphere and whispering about Dunedin Highland’s perceived discipline problems. The initial proposal called for part of Safety Harbor’s zone to be shifted into Palm Harbor’s, part of Palm Harbor’s zone to be shifted into Dunedin Highland’s, and two pieces of Dunedin Highland’s zone to be shifted into Safety Harbor’s.

“It seems like we’re moving more kids than we have to,” said board member Peggy O’Shea.

The board directed Superintendent Julie Janssen to move forward with a simpler plan with less impact.

“It’s better but I don’t think it’s enough,” Safety Harbor parent Richard Ireland, who had earlier delivered a petition with 500 signatures to the board, told The Gradebook. “We still have a chunk of Dunedin coming across U.S. 19.”

Board members also directed Janssen to come up with a recommendation for a portion of the Palm Harbor University High zone that sits within Dunedin city limits.

Board members were divided about whether that sliver and its 24 soon-to-be ninth graders should be rezoned into Dunedin High.

The board initially planned to take a final vote on the middle and high school changes on Feb. 8, then put it off until Feb. 22. Today, the board put it off again, until March 15 - the same day it’ll take a final vote on the elementary changes.

It'll be able to discuss the zoning changes again at a March 8 workshop.

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 7:21pm]


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