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SCHOOL BOUNDARY LINES GETTING CLEARER

There is still work to be done before the plan can be finalized.

With a few big caveats, most Hernando County School Board members said Thursday they were happy with the progress being made on school rezoning.

Under the tentative plans forged by a board subcommittee, some 1,800 students would shift in August 2008 from their current elementary and middle schools into the planned "Elementary J," a K-8 school scheduled to open off Northcliffe Boulevard in Spring Hill.

Most elementary and middle schools would be affected by the changes, with other children being shifted among the remaining schools to alleviate overcrowding. Some high school boundaries and students would also shift two years later with the opening of a new facility off U.S. 19 north of Hexam, said James Knight, director of student services.

But not all schools would see relief from overcrowding, with Deltona Elementary slated to grow from 988 students to 1,059 in the fall of 2008 if current growth patterns continue. Suncoast Elementary, too far south to be included in the rezoning, would also inch toward 1,000 students.

And not all the rezoning maps are finished, with boundary lines still to be adjusted for both high schools and Moton, Eastside and Brooksville elementary schools on the county's east side.

Board member Dianne Bonfield wasn't happy with the plan's implications. She said the county's magnet schools could help alleviate overcrowded schools that are "overrun by portables," and should be partially zoned as neighborhood schools.

"If we partially zone or put limited zoning in Challenger, it would greatly reduce the numbers at J.D. Floyd," Bonfield said. "Some relief could be given to Suncoast."

Superintendent Wayne Alexander suggested that magnet programs could be moved to another location, if the board felt it needed to create additional space in new buildings like Challenger that were built in crowded neighborhoods.

"We are not sworn to the location of our magnets," he said.

But Bonfield was the only board member to oppose the tentative rezoning plans, which are subject to a public hearing and final board vote.

Those meetings are scheduled for October and November, but Knight said he could envision delays, and he urged the board to finish its rezoning work by December to give parents time to plan for changes.

And if the district grows faster or slower than its historical average of 4 percent, he said, all bets are off.

"All of our premises are based on 4 percent growth, (and) we don't know what this year is going to bring us," Knight said. "We could be in better shape next year, or we could be in worse shape."

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

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