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A few out-of-county seniors allowed back in at Nature Coast students, for now

BROOKSVILLE — Three ineligible Nature Coast Technical High School students who will be seniors next year will get to remain at the school, but eight others will have to go.

The School Board on Tuesday night partly reversed a ruling it made during a hearing earlier in the day to require students who reside outside of the county to find another school.

A motion to let five students who will be juniors next year remain at Nature Coast failed.

The Hernando School District's policy requires magnet school students to live in the county. Some who reside in Pasco and Citrus counties have been admitted to Nature Coast after district officials failed to catch their out-of-county addresses.

Recently, 10 students filed an appeal to stay. At Tuesday morning's hearing, the board voted 3 to 2 to require all 10 students to leave the school next year.

Board member Pat Fagan said afterward that he planned to bring up the issue again at the evening meeting with hopes of reaching a compromise.

"I just can't see the seniors not being able to finish" at Nature Coast, Fagan said.

He made a motion Tuesday night to allow the would-be Nature Coast seniors to stay. That included one senior who hadn't made an official request to do so. It passed 3 to 2, with board members John Sweeney and Sandra Nicholson dissenting.

"We can't make decisions to hurt students," Board Member James Yant said. "We just can't do that."

Yant then made a motion to the allow next year's juniors to stay. That failed on a 2 to 3 vote, with Fagan, Nicholson and Chairwoman Dianne Bonfield dissenting.

At the hearing earlier in the day, Yant and Sweeney maintained that all the students should be allowed to stay. The board, they argued, should not penalize the students because of the district's error.

Nicholson and Bonfield disagreed. They said the district needed to consider the 163 Hernando students on the Nature Coast waiting list and should forbid the ineligible students from coming back.

They argued that the parents bear responsibility too, because the student handbook states that only Hernando County residents are eligible to apply for magnet schools. Most of the students live in Pasco County.

Bonfield said at the night meeting that she had a change of heart to let the next year's seniors stay because few if any Hernando County students would want to transfer into Nature Coast in their last year.

Earlier in the day, when Bonfield banged the gavel to adjourn the afternoon hearing, one student burst into sobs and angry parents demanded to know why they weren't given a chance to speak.

Craig Wilborn, whose son Zack would have been a junior, called the hearing "a joke" and said his son, who didn't attend, would be devastated.

Nashala Duplain, a rising senior in the medical program, cried at the earlier meeting. Her eyes swollen and her cheeks stained by tears, Duplain wondered after the hearing how her senior year at the school she loved could be taken from her.

"How could they go and do that?" she said.

She wasn't at Tuesday night's meeting to watch the board undo it.

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

A few out-of-county seniors allowed back in at Nature Coast students, for now 06/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 9:07pm]
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