Pasco school district officials prepare for major attendance zone changes
Pasco County's school enrollment continues to boom, but the effects are felt on some campuses much more than others.
High schools in central and east Pasco, for instance, are all crowded above capacity, while those along the US 19 corridor to the west sit below 85 percent of the students they can hold. Middle school crowding is less widespread, but it mirrors the high school trend: Those in Wesley Chapel and along the State Road 54 corridor through Trinity have the most pronounced concerns.
With a new high school planned to open on Old Pasco Road in Dade City next fall, district officials need to redraw some attendance zones. Rather than just look at the area surrounding that new school, though, they're taking a longer view.
They've set a goal of drawing new boundaries for a dozen schools or more throughout the county by February, so they can take effect in August 2017.
The opening of the new high school, now called GGG, would affect primarily Wiregrass Ranch High School, which had nearly 2,500 students on the first day of classes. Built for 1,700 students, Wiregrass Ranch has been on a split 10-period day for two years while awaiting this relief.
Superintendent Kurt Browning said that rezoning effort will begin sooner rather than later. He expressed concern that the district might not be able to keep up with growth in the area, noting that nearby John Long Middle is also without space for another portable, with a student body that's growing faster than expected and already larger than all but three high schools in the county.
And the Wiregrass Ranch area isn't the only one with schools bursting at the seams.
Mitchell High, for instance, hit 2,200 students, having picked up 242 more than a year earlier. Neighboring Seven Springs Middle School also is fast growing, planning director Chris Williams said.
Some parents have inquired whether the Trinity area will see its crowding eased, too. Williams said it will.
"With both Seven Springs Middle and J.W. Mitchell High experiencing more growth this week and becoming more overcrowded every day, we are faced with the need to rezone students in order to balance the populations with neighboring schools that are under capacity," he wrote in an email to one parent. "This would potentially include Paul R. Smith Middle, Gulf Middle, River Ridge Middle/High, Gulf High and Anclote High. We do not yet know what areas will be rezoned."
District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said it makes sense for the the administration to tackle all these issues at once. She expected the work to start in the next month or two.