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Hernando magnet schools propose to display residency rules more prominently

BROOKSVILLE — It's a simple sentence, but one that might have headed off a bunch of headaches.

"All applicants must certify that they are residents of Hernando County at the time they complete their application/portfolio," reads a proposed new clause to the school district's magnet school admission policy.

School officials are also working on language that would require parents of students at magnets to notify the district if they move out of Hernando County, School Board attorney Paul Carland said.

But perhaps most important, School Board members say, is that applications for the district's three magnet schools will be revised so these conditions are prominent and clear.

"I would hope that would be the first thing they do," board member Sandra Nicholson said. "We've tried to make it plain and evidently it isn't."

The board will discuss the proposals at its June 2 workshop.

The new requirements come in the wake of revelations that 19 students currently attending Nature Coast Technical High School reside beyond Hernando's borders. Only county residents are eligible to attend the magnet schools Nature Coast, Chocachatti Elementary and Challenger K-8.

Several parents of the ineligible students have complained that the policy wasn't explained to them or made clear on the application.

The current policy states that "no applications will be accepted for students living outside of Hernando County."

That's pretty clear, Board Chairwoman Dianne Bonfield said. But she agreed that an extra step to certify residency is a good idea.

"Regardless, it should be vetted," Bonfield said.

District staff is still working on recommendations for what documents parents should provide to prove they live in the county, Carland said.

Nature Coast principal Tizzy Schoelles has accepted responsibility for at least four of the students who had Spring Hill addresses but who live south of the Hernando/Pasco county line. Schoelles said she was unaware that Spring Hill addresses extend into Pasco.

Now the district office, not school administrators, will process magnet applications.

At least one parent has made an official request for a variance to allow her son, a junior, to remain at Nature Coast. Only the School Board can approve that request, and the issue is expected to be on an upcoming agenda.

The Board will also have to decide how to deal with several other parents who are pleading for permission for their children to stay at their schools.

Craig Wilborn, the parent of a two Nature Coast students who live in Pasco, is among those parents. Wilborn said he hopes the board acts soon.

His daughter Christy will graduate from the school this year, but his son Zack is a sophomore who wants desperately to stay.

If he can't, the family has to start making plans soon for Zack to attend another school, Craig Wilborn said.

"We're in limbo," he said.

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

Hernando magnet schools propose to display residency rules more prominently 05/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 15, 2009 6:55pm]
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