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Parents on edge about rezoning of John Long Middle, Wiregrass Ranch High schools

WESLEY CHAPEL — Families in the Seven Oaks subdivision are gearing up for a fight as the Pasco County School District prepares to redraw boundaries for middle and high schools east of U.S. 41.

No maps have come out. No recommendations yet exist.

Still, some rumors persist that the district might move part or all of Seven Oaks from crowded John Long Middle and Wiregrass Ranch High — two of the county's most successful schools — into other nearby schools to relieve the crunch. Residents scheduled a community meeting last week to talk about how to prevent a major shift of their kids.

"We want to get organized," said Jeff Rosenberg, a dad who started the conversation rolling on the MySevenOaks.com online forum. "It's not something one, two or three people can do on their own."

He expects many people to attend the district's first boundary committee meeting at 1:30 p.m. Monday at John Long Middle. The committee includes principals and parents from Pasco, Zephyrhills, Wiregrass Ranch and Wesley Chapel high schools, and Pasco, Weightman, Long and Stewart middle schools, as well as some district staff.

Pine View Middle School is unlikely to become part of the mix, even though it has many open seats.

Ordinarily low-key affairs, the district's rezoning efforts have grown more contentious in recent years. In 2009, several parents from the Suncoast Lakes subdivision unsuccessfully fought a proposal to move their children from River Ridge High to Hudson High as part of a major west side boundary shift.

Some of this year's committee members said they would not be surprised to see families balk at the notion of having to leave Wiregrass Ranch or John Long.

"I would not be happy about that. Nobody will," said Rhonda Shaw, who sits on both schools' PTSA boards and lives in an area that might be affected. "They're amazing schools."

At the same time, though, the moves have to be made, she said.

Many parents understand that the two schools have hundreds of students beyond their built capacities, yards of portables and several teachers moving classrooms hourly. Wiregrass Ranch principal Ray Bonti said that when John Long's eighth-grade class moves up in the fall, his school could exceed 2,300 students if the boundaries don't change.

"As wonderful as Wiregrass Ranch is ­— and we've built an excellent school, and the support of the community has been outstanding — the fact is we're now at a point where we have too many students," Bonti said.

Boundary committee member Kristina Samples, who sits on the high school's advisory committee, said she frequently hears people talk about how full the campus is.

"The numbers over the long haul show that (rezoning) is likely needed," she said.

One of the committee's first tasks will be to determine how many students to pull out of the two schools. Whatever the target numbers, they won't fully relieve crowding at either campus, district planning director Chris Williams said.

"You can't move enough kids out," Williams said. "Otherwise, you're just moving the problem to somewhere else."

To prepare, the district planning department has compiled maps that show how many students live in each subdivision adjacent to the schools' boundaries. The committee will review these numbers, along with bus routes, feeder patterns, growth projections and other issues to determine which areas to move to other schools.

District officials began telling school groups about the pending boundary revisions a year ago. Rumblings of concerns have emerged only recently.

Rosenberg said the concerns among Seven Oaks residents arose because some people see the large subdivision as easy pickings for rezoning. He acknowledged that it's still too early to know if the community will be touched, but they want to prepare.

"We just need to make sure things are done right," Rosenberg said.

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.

By the numbers

1,328 Number of students John Long Middle was designed to hold.

1,794 Students enrolled at John Long Middle.

1,676 Number of students Wiregrass Ranch High was designed to hold.

2,111 Students enrolled at Wiregrass Ranch High.

Fast facts

If you go

The committee to redraw middle and high school boundaries in eastern Pasco County is scheduled to meet at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the John Long Middle School media center, 2025 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel.

Parents on edge about rezoning of John Long Middle, Wiregrass Ranch High schools 10/16/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 16, 2010 2:38pm]
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