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Pinellas gives initial okay to elementary zoning changes

The Pinellas County School Board waded into a thicket of tangled zoning issues Tuesday and emerged with two potentially significant tweaks — and more time to think about them.

One proposal supported by a board majority would scale back a three-way zoning swap between Safety Harbor, Palm Harbor and Dunedin Highland middle schools. In its place, a single chunk on the east edge of Dunedin's zone would be moved into Safety Harbor's, bringing 65 sixth-graders with it this fall.

The second proposal would add 37 ninth-graders to the zone for highly coveted Palm Harbor University High School. Their neighborhoods are now in the southeast corner of Tarpon Spring High's zone, along Lake Tarpon.

Board member Robin Wikle supported the change, but acknowledged it could add to Palm Harbor's overcrowding. "The concern will be when there's a chance we're hauling five more portables out there to add to the 39," she said.

The board tackled zoning at both its regularly scheduled meeting and a special workshop.

At the former, it voted unanimously to give initial approval to elementary school zoning changes that will affect 20 schools and about 400 incoming kindergarten students. At the latter, it indicated no major concerns with those changes, but wrestled with some of the middle and high school plans.

Safety Harbor Middle parents have rallied against the rezoning, worried about changes in the school's atmosphere and whispering about Dunedin Highland's perceived discipline problems. The initial proposal called for part of Safety Harbor's zone to be shifted into Palm Harbor's, part of Palm Harbor's zone to be shifted into Dunedin Highland's, and two pieces of Dunedin Highland's zone to be shifted into Safety Harbor's.

"It seems like we're moving more kids than we have to," said board member Peggy O'Shea.

The board directed superintendent Julie Janssen to move forward with a simpler plan with less impact.

"It's better but I don't think it's enough," said Safety Harbor parent Richard Ireland, who had earlier delivered a petition with 500 signatures to the board. "We still have a chunk of Dunedin coming across U.S. 19."

On the high school piece, board members also directed Janssen to come up with a recommendation for a portion of the Palm Harbor University High zone that sits within Dunedin city limits. Board members were divided about whether that sliver and its 24 soon-to-be ninth-graders should be rezoned into Dunedin High.

The board initially planned to take a final vote on the middle and high school changes on Feb. 8, then put it off until Feb. 22. Tuesday, they put it off again, until March 15 — the same day they'll take a final vote on the elementary changes.

Ron Matus can be reached at matus@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8873.

Pinellas gives initial okay to elementary zoning changes 02/08/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 11:36pm]
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