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Panel to develop new school boundaries

Published Aug. 27, 2005

Hernando County school officials are stepping up efforts to more evenly distribute enrollment in the district's 10 elementary schools.

This year, though, parents will have a say.

"We asked the principals to name one person per school," planning director Heather Martin said. Most nominated parents.

The committee met once in December without any fanfare or publicity to organize, said Linda Fultz, transportation director and the group's leader. It will meet again today to start talking about the data that will drive any recommendations that might emerge.

The meeting is not open to the public, Fultz said. Before making any final determinations, though, the committee will conduct open forums, Martin said.

"Our first priority, as you heard last year, is to do something for elementary schools to even out the population of elementary schools," Fultz said.

At about this time last year, the School Board decided it needed to redraw elementary school attendance zones to ease crowding at several Spring Hill campuses and boost sagging enrollment at schools in eastern Hernando.

The board met resistance from the community to each of its plans, especially among parents who argued that all the ideas and proposals came from district administrators without any significant input from the people it would affect.

So in April, the board dropped its rezoning initiative. It instructed superintendent Wendy Tellone and her leadership team to buy software to help assess how different plans would impact the schools.

It also called for a committee, including parents from the affected schools, to work with Fultz and Martin on "getting recommendations to the board," according to approved minutes of the April 15, 2003, board workshop.

Board vice chairman Jim Malcolm said Tuesday he did not know the committee had been established. But he said he was pleased that parents would be looking at all the facts relating to crowding that the board has been considering for the past year or more.

"The more eyes and ears that you have looking and listening to what is going on, the better off we as a district are," Malcolm said. "I don't know what conclusions they will draw. But at least they will see the problems the board is facing."

Marcia Laskoski, who represents J.D. Floyd Elementary on the committee, said the administration has asked for recommendations by April 8. By meeting that deadline, the committee would leave time for the board to make decisions for the next academic year, before summer.

A board workshop is scheduled tentatively for April 27.

"Is that feasible? I don't know," Laskoski said. "The people that are on the committee seem to be passionate and willing to do this as fair as possible."

Fultz acknowledged the tight time frame. She said the new computer software, which will have information about where every student lives, should speed up the effort.

Laskoski said the committee's task will be difficult and its recommendations unlikely to please everyone. She said she hoped people would be heartened that parents are involved.

"The parents should have input," she said. "After all, it is their children that will be attending the schools."

_ Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at (352) 754-6115 or