Request to delay Pasco County school rezoning hearing denied
The Division of Administrative Hearings has rejected the request to delay hearing complaints by two groups challenging the Pasco County School Board's recent attendance zone revisions.
Administrative Law Judge D.R. Alexander, assigned to both cases, denied the continuance without comment shortly after receiving objections from the school district's lawyer. Board attorney Dennis Alfonso argued that the district is ready for trial and substantially complied with all Florida law.
He further wrote that the district faces a March 1 deadline for completing its open enrollment application process, to give all parties enough time to evaluate the options, and that the board needs finality in this case to begin setting its fiscal 2018 budget:
"The Respondent is unable to prepare and draft a proposed budget for the 2017 / 2018 school year - which must be completed by April of 2017 - without knowledge of the enrollment population for its schools, transportation routing, and other logistical issues affecting schools and students and their families."
As it stands, the cases are set to be heard at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 27 (west side) and Feb. 28 (east side) at the School Board meeting room in Land O'Lakes.
The district also has begun to outline its arguments against the plaintiffs' allegations that the board did not follow proper rule making procedure in adopting the new attendance zones.
In filings to DOAH, Alfonso wrote, in part, that "the 2017 / 2018 School Attendance Boundaries were lawfully adopted an promulgated."
"The Respondent held four (4) publicly noticed boundary committee meetings to facilitate in the development of the Superintendent's recommended Boundaries of which the Petitioners were provided notice (and had received actual notice) and at which Petitioners had the opportunity to participate. Additionally, subsequent to the Petitioner's request for a workshop, the Respondent conducted two (2) publicly noticed Board Meetings at which the 2017 / 2018 School Attendance Boundaries were discussed, and the Petitioners and public had an opportunity to hear the basis of the proposed Boundaries, and to offer comments regarding the same."
Amid this back and forth, the west side plaintiffs have taken other action to try to stop the reassignment of their children. They have filed in court a motion for a temporary injunction against the changes.
Their lawyer argues that the committees reviewing the boundary proposals violated the state Sunshine law, and alleges that committee members had private discussions about the issues outside the publicly noticed meetings. "Hence, there is an irreparable harm to the public that can only be remedied through an injunction."
The district has not filed a response. The School Board plans to hold an executive session regarding the litigation on Feb. 21.