LAND O'LAKES — Bowing to parent outcry, the Pasco County School Board decided Tuesday not to have Deer Park Elementary School start classes an hour later in the fall.
Superintendent Kurt Browning initially had recommended Deer Park and eight other schools change their bell schedules in order to save about $800,000 through bus route reorganizations.
After receiving several calls and emails decrying the proposal for Deer Park, Browning had his staff review the plan with special attention paid to student safety.
Many parents noted that their children walk to school along busy thoroughfares such as Little Road and that a new Dollar General store next to campus could cause traffic woes for the children.
Some also complained that the school serves a working-class neighborhood where both parents have jobs. Having school begin at 9:40 a.m. rather than 8:40 a.m. could cause child care problems, they said.
"We understand the responsibility that you guys have in budgeting," Judy Lambert, who has two children at Deer Park, told the School Board on Tuesday. "But Deer Park is a working-class community. With such short notice, it's an added burden that parents will have."
Browning told the board that Deer Park has more walkers than bus riders, so leaving its start time alone would not substantially alter the expected savings.
He worried, though, that because the Dollar General will open at 8 a.m., the parents' safety concerns might not be met.
The board accepted Browning's new recommendation, which also included changed start times for eight other schools — New River and West Zephyrhills elementary schools, Bayonet Point Middle School, Ridgewood and Fivay high schools, and three education centers.
All other county schools will have the same bell schedules as in 2012-13.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected]