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Pasco parents protest school rezoning plan

LAND O'LAKES — A proposal to redraw attendance zones for John Long Middle and Wiregrass Ranch High schools earned some opposition from one affected subdivision during a hearing Tuesday evening.

Simone Lowery told the Pasco School Board that people living in Ashley Pines were "extremely upset" with a recommendation to take their children out of those two crowded schools and send them to Weightman Middle and Wesley Chapel High instead.

She submitted a petition against the recommended boundaries, and a proposal to move two other areas from Long and Wiregrass Ranch to other schools. She suggested the changes would reduce crowding and also put children in schools closer to their homes.

"We should not be out this time," Lowery said, acknowledging that her subdivision might be rezoned another time if not this one.

Board members said they understood parents' concerns. However, they added, making boundary changes means uprooting someone.

"If you move one line you have to change another one somewhere," vice chairman Allen Altman said. "At some point or another you have to draw the line."

Some families will end up disappointed, chairwoman Joanne Hurley said. But others will be pleased.

"If they are moved, let them become adjusted to their new schools," she said. "You're going to lessen any negative impact to your child simply by being involved."

The board unanimously approved on first reading the proposed boundary changes.

A final vote is scheduled on Jan. 18.

Before that vote arrives, Altman urged the staff to look at how enrollment figures would be affected if the board were to allow this year's 10th graders to remain at their current school regardless of changes.

The boundary committee recommended moving those students, but members were divided because they did not want to negatively impact teens who are already invested in their schools.

"To move a student that is active and involved with just one year left is a disservice to that student," Altman said.

He also asked that the district ensure that Pasco Middle and Pasco High schools get the needed resources to deal with the academic and social needs of Dade City students who would be transferred there from Weightman Middle and Wesley Chapel High.

Those students are heavily low-income and have higher levels of absences than other students.

District leaders first announced months ago they would be revising attendance zones for secondary schools in eastern Pasco County. Both Long Middle and Wiregrass Ranch High had about 500 students more than their permanent capacity, with no room remaining for additional portables.

Yet projections indicate the schools will continue to see enrollment increases.

Other schools, including Pasco High, Pasco Middle and Stewart Middle, had space available.

The goal was to even out enrollments, which meant a shift in students.

Early in the process, residents of the Seven Oaks subdivision prepared to challenge any move of their children. They dropped their concerns after seeing maps that did not affect their assignments, as the committee looked to move neighborhoods farther to the east.

People from Ashley Pines did not attend boundary committee meetings, where the idea of moving their children emerged. But after the news became public, they organized to challenge the change.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Pasco parents protest school rezoning plan 12/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 8:45pm]
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