Pasco School Board member offers opposing view on attendance boundary changes
Pasco County School Board member Steve Luikart, who cast the only vote Tuesday against two hotly debated attendance zone revisions, has sent his recommendations for improving the plans to his colleagues.
His five-page response does not address specific neighborhoods or boundary lines, as many parents hoped. In fact, he deems the current process for identifying crowded conditions and establishing new student assignment maps "fine," and says it "appears to be the best way."
Instead, Luikart focuses on an idea that at least two of his fellow board members already have dismissed as impractical — setting a policy that would allow every student to complete the highest grade level at school they are attending at the time of a rezoning.
"Allowing them to complete the school they are currently in will encourage a positive attitude toward school and will not negatively impact the student," Luikart wrote. "They are aware of the progression and school change that comes at the end of elementary and middle school. It is expected and in most cases a milestone in their educational career. If parents and students want to transfer to their newly identified re-zoned school, that should be fine. To force that move will not be in the students' best interest."
The retired assistant principal made a similar case during Tuesday's board meeting. At that time, board member Cynthia Armstrong, a former teacher, said she initially entertained that idea after hearing several parents bring it up.
"But [other] parents had problems with that," Armstrong said. "They had problems with siblings. They'd have kids going to two separate schools."
Other concerns included the addition of extra bus runs to multiple schools, when the money could be placed into classrooms, Armstrong added.
Chairman Allen Altman said he also liked the phase-in idea, until he heard similar issues from parents.
In his document, Luikart acknowledged his idea might cost more in busing, and slow efforts to ease crowding. He did not suggest how the district would fill new schools beyond he students that would already be entering kindergarten, sixth or ninth grades.
Despite the difficulties, he wrote, "we should not take it out on our students. It may be a little harder to do at the District level, but I think our students deserve it and our parents should expect it and we should provide it as a School Board and a District."
Altman asked for Luikart's recommendations by Friday, so the board and community would have a chance to review them ahead of the next hearing on the rezonings. That public hearing and final vote are scheduled for Jan. 17.