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Lutz parents bump heads on school boundaries

TAMPA — Plans to redraw boundaries for five northern Hillsborough high schools drew about 150 parents to Gaither High School Wednesday night, where tensions within the Lutz community were in stark display.

School officials gave parents an overview of how they expect to set the attendance zones, which are not yet developed.

The fall opening of Steinbrenner High School in Lutz has kicked off a review of boundaries at Sickles, Gaither, Alonso and Freedom high schools. School officials on Wednesday ruled out any immediate changes to Chamblerlain and Leto high schools, both previously floated.

The district seeks to balance the most efficient use of classroom seats with transportation expenses, and keep an eye on diversity. It has contracted with an outside firm to analyze its options for boundary changes.

Initially, numbers will tell the story.

"Do we know how this would affect anyone's kids in particular?" said Bill Lazarus, CEO and president of SeerAnalytics, the firm crunching the numbers. "Absolutely not."

Still, parents are aware of how decisions can ripple across communities. Some wondered why overcrowded Chamberlain wasn't included, while Freedom was, despite having empty seats.

School officials said Freedom sits within a crescent of campuses around Steinbrenner.

Freedom also is a hot-button for Lutz parents, whose students are scattered between Gaither, Sickles and Freedom. One asked for a show of how many there wanted Lutz students united at one school. Around 20 stood up.

At this, another parent shouted: "It was 10 years ago. Get with the program," referring to an earlier battle over plans to build a high school in Lutz.

"What Lutz wants to do is to be together," said Bret Anderson, a parent with two children who would eventually go to Freedom.

Officials also are reviewing boundaries at four east Hillsborough schools. The opening of Strawberry Crest High could affect Plant City, Durant and Armwood high schools.

Lutz parents bump heads on school boundaries 11/12/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 20, 2008 8:01pm]
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