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Pasco County School Board wants input on school boundaries

LAND O'LAKES — Thousands of students could find themselves at different schools next year as the School Board shifts attendance zones across Pasco County.

The board will take public comment at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday on plans to draw boundaries for Fivay High School in Hudson and Elementary S in Odessa. It also will consider moving several middle school boundaries on the west side of the county to balance enrollments.

A final vote would come two weeks later.

Complaints already have arisen.

Parents from the Suncoast Meadows and Suncoast Point subdivisions in Land O'Lakes have said they don't want to send their children to Elementary S, which is rising west of Gunn Highway and south of State Road 54 to ease crowding in nearby schools. They argue that Oakstead Elementary, where their children currently attend, is much closer and safer to get to.

"The Mentmore Drive corridor is a community and shouldn't be split up," parent Stephanie Deeb wrote in an e-mail to the school district. "Many of us bought our homes knowing we would have a safe non-SR 54 bus ride to school."

The district plans to move about 200 students from the area to Elementary S.

"If we didn't pull any students from there, then Oakstead wouldn't be relieved at all, and Elementary S would be at about 550 kids," district planning director Chris Williams said.

The school is being built for about 760 students. Oakstead has more than 1,000 students and uses more than 20 portable classrooms.

Plans to redraw the map for Fivay High also have drawn some opposition.

Families in the Suncoast Lakes subdivision just off State Road 52, west of the Suncoast Parkway, have complained about plans to transfer their children from River Ridge High to Hudson High.

They'd move to Hudson to replace some of the hundreds of students who would shift to Fivay, which is slated to open next fall with about 1,200 students who also would come from Ridgewood High.

"It seems like they drew the lines on the map and now they're trying to justify the lines," said Dennis Hertog, one of the community organizers against the plan.

Williams stressed that the new high school zones aimed to align the elementary and middle school feeder patterns, so that students who attend together can move up together. That's been a district priority lately.

He noted that the Suncoast Lakes residents did not complain when the district rezoned their children's middle school two years ago, from River Ridge to Crews Lake.

School Board member Kathryn Starkey has said she would make a motion to allow the Suncoast Lakes families to remain at River Ridge High.

Changes to the middle school zones throughout west Pasco have attracted the least amount of attention. They're the only ones that don't involve a new school.

The primary objectives here are to streamline feeder patterns and to pull kids out of the most crowded schools, such as Bayonet Point and River Ridge, and get them into those that have lots of space, such as Crews Lake and Paul R. Smith.

Here's the breakdown:

From Chasco Middle School to Gulf Middle School: 188 students.

From Bayonet Point Middle School to Chasco Middle School: 180 students.

From Gulf Middle School to Paul R. Smith Middle School: 132 students.

From Hudson Middle School to Crews Lake Middle School: 112 students.

From River Ridge Middle School to Hudson Middle School: 77 students.

Board members in the past have generally deferred to the committees that draw the maps, saying the process is fair and comprehensive. They said they welcome public input and that no decision is final until the second vote comes.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Fast facts

See the maps

The proposed new boundaries for Pasco County schools appear on the district's Web site, www.pasco.k12.fl.us/boundaries.

If you go

The School Board meets at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the district board room, 7227 Land O'Lakes Blvd., Land O'Lakes.

Pasco County School Board wants input on school boundaries 10/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 30, 2009 9:25pm]
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