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Hillsborough may avoid school boundary changes this fall

TAMPA — It's going to be tight, but Hillsborough County school officials think they may be able to avoid redrawing school boundaries this summer to comply with the 2002 state class-size amendment.

"As of right now, it doesn't look like we're going to do any boundary changes," said William Person, the district's general director of pupil placement.

A district task force will discuss that recommendation at a meeting today, but the final decision is up to superintendent MaryEllen Elia and the school board.

In the fall, officials worried they might have to rezone up to nine schools in August — and perhaps move children from one school to another — when the law comes into full force. It limits class sizes to 18 students per teacher in pre-kindergarten through third grade, 22 students in fourth through eighth grade, and 25 students in high school.

Since then, the district has worked hard to avoid the controversy and disruption of rezoning.

It has supported statewide efforts to freeze the class-size amendment at the current level. It has opened new wings in overcrowded buildings and changed schedules to spread students more evenly within schools. And it has moved to change the middle school schedule from six periods per day to seven, which will ease class-size pressure at that level, Person said.

Schools that were in danger of boundary changes included Bryant, Summerfield Crossings, Trapnell, Turner, Sheehy, and Pride elementary schools; Burns Middle School; and Bloomingdale and Wharton high schools. But officials concluded by December that such changes probably wouldn't be needed.

"If we were going to do it, we would have at least held meetings in those communities," Person said. "We would have done that by now."

Still, the district could face problems if enrollment rises this fall. Among the task force's draft recommendations is a proposal to add placement counselors to direct new families toward open seats at other schools.

And all bets are off if enrollment is dramatically higher.

"If we open up in the fall and we're way off, then we'll have to do something," Person said.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400.

Hillsborough may avoid school boundary changes this fall 02/01/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 2, 2010 12:16am]
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