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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Zoning fight brewing at Safety Harbor Middle?



It remains to be seen how deep the opposition goes, but there's plenty of chatter about Safety Harbor Middle parents gearing up to fight the proposed zoning changes to their school.

Under the district's proposal, a portion of the Safety Harbor Middle zone will be added to the Palm Harbor Middle zone, while two chunks of the Dunedin Highland Middle zone will be added to Safety Harbor's. That's not sitting well with some Safety Harbor parents, who are writing the school board and rallying each other to show up at the zoning meeting from 7-8:30 tonight at Countryside High.

"It appears that the district is planning to re-zone large numbers of students in what looks like an unnecessary game of musical chairs," Lorrie Kohli, who's on the SAC at Safety Harbor Middle, told board members in an email. "Is it really necessary to uproot and upset so many families who are still connected to traditional neighborhood schools?"

According to the district, Safety Harbor Middle will have 45 more sixth-graders next year because of the zoning changes. But, some parents say, that adds up to 135 additional students over three years - enough, they say, to potentially change the atmosphere at a school.

Some parents fear many of the newcomers will be low-income students who struggle more. Others wonder if the district is making the change in an effort at demographic balance, given the high proportion of low-income students at Dunedin Highland.

Sixty five percent of students there were eligible for free and reduced last year, according to state figures, compared to 36 percent at Safety Harbor Middle.

Richard Ireland, who has a sixth grader at Safety Harbor Middle, told The Gradebook he looked closely at the enrollment numbers and how they will change at Safety Harbor, Dunedin Highland and other nearby middle schools - and is left with more questions.

"If it's about seat capacity," he said, "I'm not buying it."

[Last modified: Thursday, February 3, 2011 12:53pm]


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