Pasco superintendent alters committee school boundary proposals in recommendations to board
Pasco County's keenly watched and hotly debated middle and high school attendance zone revision efforts took another twist Monday evening, as superintendent Kurt Browning announced he would recommend boundaries that don't match those of his advisory committees.
Browning's decision, sent to parents after classes let out, would alter proposals for schools in both the southwest and eastern parts of the county. It comes amid a flood of emails that alternately praised and criticized the committees for their suggestions, and didn't do much to stem the tide of complaints, although it likely would change who is doing the complaining.
For the east side, Browning is advising the School Board to adopt a plan referred to as Option 13, that sends a portion of the Meadow Pointe subdivision north of State Road 56 to Wesley Chapel High and Weightman Middle schools, rather than rezoning the Seven Oaks neighborhood into those campuses. Earlier this month, the advisory committee adopted a map moving Seven Oaks called Option 20, not long after approving an option that did not change the boundary for that community.
Wesley Chapel residents from the different areas have fought tooth and nail over the flip flopping of map proposals, accusing each other of intimidation tactics, influence peddling, lying and other nefarious means of getting what they want. Residents in each potentially affected area touted their own sets of facts to prove why the plan that left their children in Wiregrass Ranch High and John Long Middle, both of which deal with severe overcrowding, was best.
Browning said his proposal impacts the fewest amount of students.
"I don't want to rezone Seven Oaks twice in as few as four years," he wrote. "If we adopted map proposal 20, some students could attend four different schools in their secondary years. They could conceivably start 6th grade at John Long Middle School, move to Weightman Middle School by 8th grade, start 9th grade at Wesley Chapel High School, and be moved to Cypress Creek High School before graduation."
For the west side, Browning recommended a map similar to that provided by his advisory committee. However, he proposed moving students in the Deer Park Elementary zone from the River Ridge Middle-High zone to the Gulf Middle-High zone — something the committee considered then rejected in reaction to parent criticism.
Browning said that Deer Park area likely would be rezoned in a couple of years, anyway, to relieve River Ridge crowding as anticipated new subdivisions grow. Doing it now will provide space while also filling open seats at under-capacity Gulf.
The committee's recommendation "did not go far enough to achieve our goals of relieving Mitchell and Seven Springs Middle School crowding or to add enrollment to Gulf Middle and Gulf High schools," Browning wrote. "We were only moving about 140 students out of Mitchell and putting them into River Ridge Middle/High Schools."
His recommendations go to the School Board for public hearings on Dec. 20 and Jan. 17. The hearing for each proposal is expected to last one hour.