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Committee considers shifting school zones for overcrowded Wiregrass Ranch High, John Long Middle

WESLEY CHAPEL — Before the meetings began, residents of Seven Oaks worried that plans to redraw middle and high school attendance zones would affect their families.

Their concerns faded as a committee of parents and school leaders concentrated their boundary proposals more heavily on the eastern edge of the zones for Wiregrass Ranch High and John Long Middle, rather than on the west side of the region.

Maps based on the first round of discussions now show that people living in the New River section of Wesley Chapel are most likely the ones to be shifted out of the two crowded schools. There are several possibilities in play, but most of them have sections of New River moving into Weightman and Stewart middle schools, and Wesley Chapel and Zephyrhills high schools.

The committee also is considering reassigning the more than 350 Dade City students who live in the Cox Elementary School zone to Pasco Middle and Pasco High schools. For years, those children, who are mostly lower-income and black or Hispanic, have been bused to Weightman Middle and Wesley Chapel High to support diversity of the student bodies.

This change would affect the socio-economic makeup of the schools involved. But district officials said the more critical issue is to alleviate heavy crowding at Wiregrass Ranch and Long, each of which has about 400 more students than permanent seats and no room remaining for portable classrooms. In order to create space, district officials said they need to shift students at several schools with adjacent boundaries.

Transferring the Cox-area students would have an added benefit, they said, of allowing them to attend a neighborhood school, which could improve their connections to the schools.

District planning director Chris Williams said the committee will consider transportation routes, community cohesion and several other factors as it evaluates boundary proposals. The goal is to create a plan that will hold for five to seven years.

The boundary committee is scheduled to review the latest proposals at 2:30 p.m. Monday at Wiregrass Ranch High School. After it completes its recommendations, the committee will present those at public forums before taking them to the School Board for final action. That adoption is projected to occur in February.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Committee considers shifting school zones for overcrowded Wiregrass Ranch High, John Long Middle 10/29/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 29, 2010 9:51pm]
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