BROOKSVILLE — Creating school attendance zones involves more than simply shifting lines on a map.
The process sparks fundamental questions about what programs the district offers, whether to keep those programs and what new offerings might be considered in the future.
A majority of School Board members on Tuesday said they support an approach to rezoning that creates capacity for new programs at neighborhood schools and leaves existing magnet schools intact.
"I think that scenario is the most logical at this point simply because there are minimal disruptions," chairman James Yant said. "I think that will be the best for everyone and still gets the job done."
The district has to shift attendance zones for elementary and middle schools to accommodate the new, yet-to-be named K-8 school on U.S. 19 north of Weeki Wachee. The elementary portion of the school is set to open in the fall and will fill in the middle school grades starting in 2012.
The board reviewed three scenarios proffered by the district's rezoning committee.
The first approach creates boundaries based solely on student proximity to schools, and magnet schools like Challenger K-8 and Chocachatti Elementary would be changed to zone schools.
The second scenario is similar to the first, but the magnet programs are left intact.
The committee, composed of staffers from various district departments and a parent representative, recommended the third option: keep magnet programs as they are.
Using geographic imaging software with the help of the county property appraiser's office, the committee came up with new boundaries with three guiding principles, superintendent Bryan Blavatt told the board: minimize the number of current students affected; keep students as close to their schools as possible; and consider future growth patterns.
"So we're not moving students every two or three years," Blavatt said.
But the approach also would allow for new offerings at neighborhood schools to benefit students who live nearby as well as attract students from throughout the county who participate in the school choice plan, Blavatt said.
"I think we should seize this opportunity," he said.
Board members Cynthia Moore and Pat Fagan joined Yant.
"If it gets creamed by parents, we can come back with another one," Moore said.
The plan would shift more than 1,100 elementary students and about 860 middle school students to new schools. The boundaries for Pine Grove, Westside, Brooksville and Moton elementary schools would see the most significant changes.
Under the proposal, for example, an estimated 586 students assigned to Pine Grove would move to the new school, 160 Westside students would move to the new school and 189 Moton students would move to Pine Grove.
Fourth-graders headed to fifth grade next year would be allowed to stay at their current schools, but families would have to provide transportation. The changes to middle school zones would take effect starting in 2012-13.
Members John Sweeney and Dianne Bonfield hesitated to voice support for one scenario and asked for more information. Bonfield said she wanted to see the financial impact associated with each approach.
"I think it's very important for us to remember that the magnets and themes take extra allocations, and that's costly," Bonfield said.
But Bonfield and Sweeney agreed that the final attendance zones should help balance offerings throughout the district.
"For years we've been saying if we're going to have successful programs, they need to be in all of our schools," Sweeney said.
Blavatt said he would bring back financial information. He also stressed that the final plan will be adjusted based on community input.
The first public meeting is slated for Dec. 21 at Westside Elementary, and all three scenarios will be presented, Blavatt said.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.