Pasco school officials explore address verification for students
Hoping to stave off being drawn out of the Mitchell High and Seven Springs Middle attendance zones, several Trinity-area parents have urged the Pasco School Board to first root out children attending the schools using false addresses.
They've demanded an audit of student addresses.
"Regardless of whether there are 100, 200 or 600 non-zoned students, the district needs to do the right thing in the proper order," a group calling itself West Pasco School Rezoning said in a statement to the Gradebook. "It is unacceptable that the district would even consider rezoning when they are not willing to start by making sure that they have put forth every effort to protect the students who are actually zoned for our schools."
School district officials are listening, said board attorney Dennis Alfonso. They just haven't decided exactly how to proceed.
A key concern from the district's perspective, Alfonso said, is making sure that any action doesn't look punitive against a select group of children. He is advocating a district-wide process that requires all students to provide proof of residency, or some other documentation showing they are in a school through approved methods such as choice.
A first step under consideration is developing a standardized list of acceptable documents. District leaders also are talking about changing policies to make it a parental responsibility to update their address and other related information, Alfonso said.
At the same time, he continued, parents who file complaints about children lying to get into a school will have to understand that children's information is personal and private. That means the district will not be able to reveal its findings to those people who made the complaint.
Alfonso added that the district will need to take into account that, at the end of the day, it is responsible for education first and foremost.
"We are not the address Gestapo," he said. "We are not going to hire someone to go out to a house and see who is sleeping there."
Address verification to deal with school crowding is not unusual. The Broward County school district moved to crack down on false addresses earlier this year as a step to possibly avoid needing to redraw attendance zones, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
That's what the Trinity parents would like.
"All we want is for the district to postpone this rezone and give us time. Time to make sure we are working with correct numbers. Time to make sure all possible avenues have been looked at," the West Pasco School Rezoning group statement said. "In the end, a rezone may be needed. We hope that is not the case, but this decision cannot be determined in the next 90 days."
The district's rezoning committee is scheduled to begin its work on the Mitchell High boundaries in October. Another committee charged with drawing new lines for Wesley Chapel area high schools begins its work today.