NEW TAMPA — A school boundary change proposal to reassign students living in Cory Lake Isles and Arbor Greene to Hunter's Green Elementary School has produced a wave of protest from residents of both New Tampa communities.
Concerned parents flocked to Benito Middle School March 30 to protest the school district's plan to take their 563 children out of the A-rated Pride Elementary School and send them to Hunter's Green, which has a C rating.
"Everybody is angry," said Quia Zhang of Cory Lake Isles. "This is a decision that should be based on the welfare of the students. But they're not doing this for the students. They're doing it just to fill Hunter's Green, which is half empty. They're treating our kids like chess pieces."
An online petition protesting the change has garnered more than 1,000 signatures. The parents have also requested a town hall meeting with their school board representative, Cindy Stuart, to voice their concerns.
"But we haven't gotten any response – just a canned message," said Cory Lake Isles resident Sudhir Shah. "Our kids are the victims of politics. It's unfair and unacceptable."
Prior to the opening of Pride Elementary School in 2001, elementary students living in Arbor Greene and Cory Lake Isles, which have more than 2,300 homes, attended Hunter's Green Elementary. Despite the fact that it was farther away, the school district reassigned the students to Pride Elementary to help fill the new school.
"That had a tremendous impact on our communities," said parent Teresa Jin. "It took a long time for the students and parents to adjust to the change. Now, 60 percent of the students at Pride come from Arbor Greene and Cory Lake Isles. In the past 16 years, we contributed a tremendous amount of time and money to build Pride into an A-rated school."
By contrast, said Jin, Hunter's Green Elementary has fallen from an A rating in 2007-08 to its current C rating.
"But the principal at Hunter's Green hasn't offered any explanation for the rating or come up with a plan to improve the school," said Arbor Green parent Rong Zhang. "It will take many years for Hunter's Green to regain it's A rating."
In response to the parents' concerns, Stuart defended the boundary shift for the two neighborhoods, saying it is part of an overall plan to accommodate the growth occurring in New Tampa.
"It has been many, many years since the district has addressed the continued growth of the New Tampa area," she said.
She said the boundary changes, which have been a year in the planning, will allow the district to stop busing University Area students to schools in New Tampa and will allow students in the developing community of K-Bar Ranch to attend Pride Elementary, which is located in their community and was built to accommodate the students in K-Bar Ranch. Those students are currently assigned to Heritage, Clark and Hunter's Green
"While I understand the situation with Arbor Greene and Cory Lake Isles," she said. "I want you to know that there is a much larger scale of students involved in these shifts. These adjustments are sometimes difficult and may be received as negative or impactful, but we cannot ignore the necessity of them."
Nicole Shiber said she's been looking forward to these school boundary changes since moving to K-Bar Ranch in 2008.
"We now have 500 homes and will have 1,500 when the community is built out," she said.
As part of the development agreement, the developer of K-Bar Ranch, Krusen Douglas LLC, donated the land for Pride Elementary, she said.
"It's been the plan all along for our children to attend Pride," Shiber said.
The school board is expected to vote on the boundary changes on May 16. If approved, the boundary changes will go into effect in August 2018.
Contact D'Ann Lawrence White at [email protected]