Parent, staff committee begins planning new boundaries for west Pasco schools
For more than a month, anxious west Pasco parents have fretted over what new school attendance zones might look like for their neighborhoods.
They finally got a glimpse at the possibilities Wednesday, as a committee began its work to ease crowding at Mitchell High and Seven Springs Middle schools by shifting students to nearby campuses with plenty of open seats. See our live Twitter feed from that meeting here.
Michelle Gesling, who has two children at Mitchell, was hopeful that having ideas on paper would allay some of the mounting concerns. “Everybody is afraid right now,” Gesling said. “When you have a plan, the fear goes down.”
David Davis, who has led the push to delay any new boundaries, sounded less optimistic as the meeting wound down. He noted the panel “didn’t get very far” in its primary task of identifying communities to take out of Mitchell and Seven Springs, despite having met nearly an hour longer than planned.
Much of the discussion, he added, focused on moving out subdivisions in the schools’ west and north sectors, just as he expected. Still, he acknowledged that nothing was set in stone, as district planners agreed to consider ideas such as adding the Hudson area, which has under-capacity schools, to the rezoning mix.
Planning director Chris Williams “said he’s going to look at it,” said Davis, a Seven Springs Middle parent. “We’ll find out next meeting whether they listened.”
Williams said nothing is off the table yet, although some ideas are much less viable than others. The committee is one of three looking into new school boundaries across Pasco County.
The reason, Williams explained, is renewed rapid population growth after a brief lull during the recession.
The efforts in Wesley Chapel and Odessa include the opening of new schools, which has eased the sting for parents in those areas. They have generated much less complaint and angst.
The west Pasco process doesn’t have a new school, though, because so many other nearby schools are under capacity. Growth along the State Road 54 corridor has not extended toward the US 19 region, where several schools are under capacity.
Parents on the committee asked several questions that hinted at their lack of desire to see zones changed.
One wanted to know if the district might allow more students than high school seniors to remain at their current school after the zoning changes take effect. That’s possible but depends on numbers, Williams said.
Another asked whether the group could create a new magnet school aimed at drawing students away from the crowded campuses without redrawing any lines. Area superintendent David Scanga quickly nixed that concept, saying it was beyond the committee’s purview and wouldn’t help anyway.
After nearly two hours of back and forth, the committee members started looking at maps. But they didn’t arrive at even a draft proposal, instead turning in notes for the planning department to review and craft possible new lines.
The members will meet again Oct. 26.