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Pasco County school district takes steps to limit judge’s ruling against attendance boundary maps

The School Board expects to consider another rezoning proposal before the summer.
An advisory committee recommended new attendance boundaries for west Pasco County middle and high schools in November 2016. A group of parents has been fighting the proposal ever since.
[Times | 2016]
An advisory committee recommended new attendance boundaries for west Pasco County middle and high schools in November 2016. A group of parents has been fighting the proposal ever since. [Times | 2016]
Published Jan. 29, 2018

A Pasco County judge's ruling against the School Board's 2017-18 attendance zone map revisions for west-side middle and high schools wound up affecting only a handful of students.

School district records show that 55 students of about 170 who were reassigned actually changed schools, with the rest using open enrollment to remain in place. Among those 55, just eight chose to return to Mitchell High or Seven Springs Middle after Judge Kimberly Sharpe Byrd voided the lines.

The rest decided to stay in their new schools. A handful sent notes to the board praising them.

"We financially supported the lawsuit that ended up nullifying the rezoning, out of principle, as we agree that it was poorly executed and did not produce any meaningful result, not because we objected to the change in school assignment," Corey Hynes wrote in one email. "That being said, in the end we, and many other families in this community, feel we got the better end of the bargain, so to speak, and feel strongly that River Ridge is the perfect fit."

Now the district administration is working to ensure that those families won't have to move their children again while in the same school level.

Parents received a letter offering them "modified school choice" for 2018-19. If they apply, their children would be allowed to stay in River Ridge Middle or River Ridge High, regardless of whether new zones are drawn, through the end of their highest grade level in the school.

"We want to minimize the disruption," superintendent Kurt Browning explained.

The district planning staff meanwhile is working to devise new attendance zones for west side middle and high schools, with the same goal of easing crowding at over-capacity campuses such as Mitchell High and Seven Springs Middle. Browning said he intends to have a proposal in place for the fall.

District lawyers at the same time are seeking to get Byrd's ruling overturned.

They filed a motion for rehearing the case, arguing that the judge's decision was "contrary to the facts adduced at trial and to the law applicable to those facts."

Among their arguments, the lawyers contended the plaintiffs did not have standing to complain about the hearing notice, and that the judge did not consider all the board's actions to cure any advisory committee open meetings law violations.

The board is poised to have a closed door meeting Tuesday to discuss any further actions it wants to take on the lawsuit, such as an appeal.

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