School gets a zone of its own

BROOKSVILLE — Students who live within several of miles Nature Coast Technical High School should check a map. The magnet school might soon be your neighborhood high school.

Since its doors opened in 2003, Nature Coast has accepted students from throughout Hernando County through an application process. Starting next year, though, the school will have its own attendance zone, meaning students who live within that area will be automatically assigned to the school.

At a public meeting set for Tuesday evening, families can take a look at the proposed boundaries and weigh in on how the district should make the transition.

The primary question the School Board will consider early next year: Should the change affect only current eighth-graders who will start high school next year, or also apply to current high school freshmen at other schools who would, if they wanted to, switch to Nature Coast?

The public input will be included in any recommendation made to the board, superintendent Bryan Blavatt said.

"I want to be open to hear what the thinking is," Blavatt said.

Last month, the board voted unanimously to create a neighborhood zone around the Nature Coast. Students in the zone will attend the school unless they ask to attend another school during the open enrollment period slated for next month. The rest of Nature Coast's seats will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis by students who apply. That is also a new procedure. The seats had been filled by a 70-30 portfolio-to-lottery ratio.

The idea for the changes came from an advisory committee of parents, principals, teachers and district staffers, including Nature Coast principal Toni-Ann Noyes, who supported the revisions to allow broader access to the school.

Created with input from a committee comprised of parents, principals and district staffers, the proposed Nature Coast attendance zone includes portions of the current zones for Hernando and Springstead high schools.

The proposed zone, according to student services director Mary-Grace Surrena, includes 92 current eighth graders — 54 zoned for Hernando and 38 for Springstead. The zone also includes more than 90 students who currently are in the ninth grade and of those more than 30 already attend Nature Coast.

The plan offers the benefit of downsizing Springstead, a school that got some relief for its crowded conditions when attendance zones were shifted before Weeki Wachee High opened last year, Blavatt said.

"It took a lot of engineering and design to make it as fair and as equitable as we could, and I think we did a really good job," he said.

The district made phone calls to the households of all 186 eighth- and ninth-graders, notifying them they are in the proposed Nature Coast zone, Surrena said.

"They have the option to come to (Tuesday's) meeting and be kept in the loop," Surrena said.

The board will likely consider the zone at a January workshop and take a formal vote in Feburary, she said.

The open enrollment period is slated for Jan. 1-31. Given the time period for the Nature Coast boundary review and approval, that enrollment period would likely be extended for students in the adopted Nature Coast zone, Surrena said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com. Facebook page: Hernando Education Beat, Tampa Bay Times.

If you go

The Hernando school district will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Nature Coast Technical High, 4057 California St., to present the draft of a neighborhood attendance zone for the school and get feedback from students and their families. For information, call (352) 797-7008.

School gets a zone of its own 12/17/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 17, 2011 11:00am]

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