The Pinellas County School Board took a first, public look Tuesday at proposed new zoning maps for elementary schools, which will be available in an interactive form for parents today.
All in all, 27 of the district's 63 zoned elementary schools have been identified for change.
If they are approved, the new lines will affect where students go to school next fall. They will impact about 1,600 students now in grades K-3.
Board members raised no major objections, and some thanked staff for re-drawing the lines in what they said was a careful, consistent manner.
"Things were very fairly done," board member Linda Lerner said at a workshop where the maps were displayed. "There were … good reasons for each one."
The board is scheduled to take the first of two votes on the proposed zones next week, along with proposed policy shifts that affect out-of-zone students. The board indicated Tuesday it is poised to grant additional exceptions to those shifts, which could have sent about 3,300 students back to their zoned schools next fall.
Among the latest exceptions: Students who were admitted into schools outside of their zones through the district's annual "open enrollment" process, which allowed them to transfer if seats were available. There are 500 to 600 of those students in grades K-3, said deputy superintendent Jim Madden.
The board indicated at a workshop last week that it would allow out-of-zone students who will be in fifth grade next year to remain in their out-of-zone schools. Many of them were grandfathered in under the district's controversial and now-defunct school choice plan. The board also indicated it would exempt students displaced during a round of school closings several years ago.
If the board approves the exceptions, the number of K-3 students affected by the policy shift would drop to 1,700 to 1,800, according to district figures.
"Keeping our promise is the bottom line, regarding grandfathering, … regarding open enrollment," said board member Terry Krassner.
Over the years, the student population has shifted, leaving some schools overcrowded and stacked with portables while others have unused space.
Ron Matus can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8873.