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Rezoning committee changes course on east Pasco County middle, high school boundaries



To cheers and jeers, an advisory committee of Pasco County parents and school district officials changed direction Friday on a proposal for revised Wesley Chapel-area middle and high school attendance zone boundaries.

The Meadow Pointe subdivision, which originally had been slated to move out of Wiregrass Ranch High and John Long Middle, would remain in place under the latest recommendation. The Seven Oaks subdivision instead would be rezoned into Wesley Chapel High and Weightman Middle.

Together, the neighborhoods make up the bulk of the enrollment for Wiregrass Ranch and John Long, which have long been crowded well beyond their capacity. To ease that crowding, relocating one of the two was considered a key component.

Residents from both fought hard to keep their kids in the schools, making arguments about community integrity, traffic congestion and other potential factors. In the end, though, the decision boiled down to numbers and proximity to the campuses.

With its initial vote, the committee was under the impression that moving Meadow Pointe would alleviate the crowding at Wiregrass Ranch, which has operated on a 10-period day for two years, much moreso than moving Seven Oaks. Some residents pointed out that the district's projected enrollment figures were incorrect, though.

After the district staff adjusted the figures, it became clear that the anticipated student numbers for Wiregrass Ranch and Wesley Chapel high schools would be the same regardless of which option the committee selected. That made the fact of Meadow Pointe's closeness to the Wiregrass Ranch/John Long campus more pertinent.

The committee changed its unanimous vote to rezone the Meadow Pointe neighborhoods to a 16-5 vote in favor of moving Seven Oaks instead. Seven Oaks residents have a shorter drive along wider roadways to Wesley Chapel and Weightman.

"The correction ... made the difference. We were convinced it was a bad idea," said Joy Bollent, a parent on the committee representing Weightman Middle. "I think it was actually pretty great, seeing we can actually do this and keep the integrity that parents want. The numbers were just off."

Denise Nicholas, a Seven Oaks parent on the committee, advocated the other way. She said her main concern was moving her subdivision now, and then possibly again in a few years when a new middle school is built for the area.

"I truly do not believe in rezoning twice," Nicholas said, suggesting that the opposition to the original plan was not as great as some contended.

More than 50 parents watched the 90-minute proceedings from the stands of the Wesley Chapel High gym, where the meeting took place. Some walked away dejected, others ecstatic.

"They used the facts," said Doug Wood, a Meadow Pointe resident who has three children in the Wiregrass Ranch feeder pattern. "You want to keep the Meadow Pointe district intact. That's the main thing."

Joseph Pollok, who lives near the new Cypress Creek Middle/High School, complained that his community wasn't considered for rezoning from Pasco High to Cypress Creek. Cypress Creek, on Old Pasco Road, will open in the fall with about 1,900 students coming from the west side of Interstate 75.

"They didn't represent the rural students," he said. "We're driving the farthest, when there's (Cypress Creek) less than 7 miles from our homes. We get no options."

The proposals next go to the superintendent and his staff for review, before coming to the School Board for public hearings scheduled Dec. 20 and Jan. 17. The board also will consider rezonings for Odessa-area elementary schools and southwest Pasco middle and high schools at the same time.

The elementary process was noncontroversial. The southwest Pasco middle and high school effort was highly contentious, with that committee only narrowly arriving at a proposal.

District spokeswoman Linda Cobbe told the committee that superintendent Kurt Browning "doesn't have any intention of changing any of the recommendations from any of the committees." The School Board has the final say.

[Last modified: Friday, December 2, 2016 5:55pm]


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