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STUDENT SHUFFLE MOVES FORWARD

A perceived gang problem may not be enough to keep students at their current schools once two new schools open in August, shuffling nearly 2,000 children around Hillsborough County.

With six schools brimming with students and a new school year just six months away, the School Capacity Advisory Council, an ad hoc group of parents and district administrators, recommended few changes to proposed school boundaries Monday.

The council recommended moving ahead with a boundary proposal for Doris Ross Reddick Elementary near Wimauma, but tweaked boundary changes for Sgt. Paul Smith Middle School in Citrus Park. The change would allow 64 students from the Wyndham Lakes subdivision to stay at Martinez Middle School instead of moving to Walker Middle School.

Students in the Van Dyke Farms housing development would go to Walker under the recommendation, and older students would be grandfathered in at their current schools.

One change that will not be made: Students slated to move to Webb Middle School under the proposal will still be zoned for that school.

Smith's opening will move more than 1,000 students in northwest Hillsborough among five currently open schools: Davidsen, Farnell, Martinez, Walker and Webb. All but Webb, a C-rated school, are crowded.

At a recent meeting about Smith, parents said they did not want their children moving to Webb, a predominately Hispanic school in Town 'N Country. Webb is perceived to have a gang problem, council members said.

"Perception is in the eye of the beholder," said council member and Tampa Bay Tech principal Christopher Farkas. "I don't want us to make a decision off of that."

If the boundary proposals are approved as recommended, capacity at neighboring schools will allow a variety of choice options that should satisfy parents, said Steve Ayers, director of pupil administrative services.

In south county, the proposed boundary changes for Reddick will take nearly 600 students from Cypress Creek Elementary, which is significantly overcrowded, and Wimauma Elementary which is at 100 percent capacity.

The boundaries and recommended changes are far from official, said Ayers, who must take the recommendations to superintendent MaryEllen Elia before taking the final proposals to the School Board in April.

Amber Mobley can be reached at amobley@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5311.

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