Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco County adopts stricter rules on open school enrollment

LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County parents will now find it more difficult to put their children in schools they aren't zoned to attend.

They can blame the 2002 class-size amendment.

In order to comply with the voter mandate for smaller classes, the school district is paying closer attention to exactly how many seats it has available in each classroom at every grade level in a school. Before the state moved to class-by-class counts, children could switch schools more easily based upon general capacity.

"Prior to class size we were very fluid," superintendent Heather Fiorentino said.

But the stricter rules, which voters upheld in November, meant that districts faced possible fines for failing to meet the constitutional requirements. As a result, the Pasco school district began limiting access to crowded schools through school choice.

In one of several policy discussions Tuesday, the School Board officially adopted new, stricter regulations governing open school enrollment. Among the changes, the district will require documented proof of hardships to gain entry to full schools, and siblings will not be guaranteed choice into the same school if seats are not available.

The rules take effect in time for the next round of school choice, which begins Feb. 1.

Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley expressed reservations about a stipulation in the policy that would force families to wait 20 days into the school year to learn if their choice application is approved, if they apply late.

"It seems like a tough way to do it for both the parents and the students," Hurley said, asking for other options.

Assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly noted that the schools need time to determine how many teachers they need for the students already enrolled before they can make decisions on allowing late transfers through open enrollment. The district has to be fair to students already in the school, assistant superintendent Tina Tiede added.

Hurley asked for more data about how many students are offered choice transfers after 20 days, and for ideas about how to make the transition easier. But she joined the majority in approving the new policy.

That was but one policy discussion that the board engaged in during Tuesday's session.

Board vice chairman Allen Altman called for a review of the rule that forces teachers to leave their classrooms immediately upon reaching the date they set for retirement five years earlier through the state's DROP program. Last year, three or four teachers had to abandon their classes just weeks before the end of a semester.

"That is not good for schools or students," Altman said.

He urged the board to consider allowing those teachers to remain at their schools, with the principal's approval, through the end of the semester at least. Fiorentino said she wanted to have staff review all applicable laws before she would feel comfortable making such a change.

She did not have as many reservations about Hurley's proposal to give board members more leeway in placing items on the board agenda.

Hurley suggested revising policy to let every board member add to the agenda simply by advising the superintendent of the desire to do so.

"I'm really happy to do that," Fiorentino said.

She added, though, that the current rule exists for a reason.

"The reason it was changed was because it's easier to put the heat on me" when a single board member continually adds the same item, one that others do not wish to discuss, she said.

"We haven't had …" Hurley began.

"Uniforms," Fiorentino replied, reminding the board of a regular request by former member Kathryn Starkey.

"Okay," Hurley said, nodding.

She changed her recommendation to say that if a board member could get the support of at least one other at a public meeting, he or she could place an item on the next available agenda. That way, even a minority could put ideas up for discussion and the possibility of convincing others.

The full board agreed to that change and added it to policy revisions that are to come to a vote early next year.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Pasco County adopts stricter rules on open school enrollment 12/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 7:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]