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Apollo Beach pupils won't be moved for now

The School District has shelved a plan to uproot students from three different high schools after one School Board member said the board was "blindsided" by the proposal.

Steven Ayers, the district's director of pupil assignment, made the unexpected announcement Wednesday night at a town hall-style meeting at Riverview High School. Parents greeted the news with relief.

"I almost feel like crying right now," said Lori Riscile, who attended the meeting.

Riscile was one of 21 parents from Apollo Beach who showed up to the Tuesday School Board meeting to argue against a proposed school boundary. The new boundary would have moved about 275 Apollo Beach students from East Bay High School to the Lennard High School, slated to open in August.

The Apollo Beach parents wanted to know why such an old, tightly knit neighborhood was being broken up.

Ayers told them Tuesday that moving Apollo Beach kids to Lennard would make room in East Bay High for Riverview High School students from the Shadow Run and Rivercrest neighborhoods - which in turn would allow students at Newsome High School to attend Riverview.

The domino effect would help the district prepare for growth, he said.

But School Board member Jennifer Faliero said Wednesday that the board had not been briefed on Ayers' domino plan prior to hearing about it at Tuesday meeting.

"The board was blindsided," she said. "You don't talk about pulling kids apart at three different high schools in the middle of the year."

On Wednesday night, Ayers said he had hoped to discuss the domino plan with parents at Riverview and Newsome High Schools before presenting it to the board.

"I hadn't talked to the community yet," he said.

On Tuesday, the board voted down the proposed Lennard school boundary. They agreed to meet on March 1 to discuss alternatives - some of which might have still moved Apollo Beach students to Lennard.

But Wednesday, Faliero said, she met with William Person, the district's general director for pupil placement and support. Person then met with superintendent MaryEllen Elia, Faliero said.

Ayers said only that "senior staff" made the decision earlier in the day to shelve the plan for at least a year.