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Pasco County school district unveils new student attendance zone proposal

If approved, the changes would reassign about 900 students.
Pasco County school district officials have proposed reassigning about 900 west-side students into different schools for 2018-19. [Pasco County School District]
Pasco County school district officials have proposed reassigning about 900 west-side students into different schools for 2018-19. [Pasco County School District]
Published Feb. 26, 2018

Shortly after a judge voided Pasco County's west-side school boundary map changes for 2017-18, superintendent Kurt Browning made clear the district's crowding concerns had not changed and another rezoning would soon take place.

The staff released its proposal on Feb. 23, as anticipated, in advance of a 5 p.m. March 12 public workshop at Mitchell High School.

Its recommended maps, which would affect middle and high schools, could reassign close to 900 children — some immediately and some over time. The previous effort affected fewer than 60 students, some of whom stand to again be rezoned.

The proposal calls for 241 students living in the western portion of the Mitchell High zone to go to Anclote High, and 160 students in the northern section of the Mitchell zone to go to River Ridge High. Another 167 students zoned to Anclote High would be reassigned to Gulf High.

The changes also would have abut 141 Seven Springs Middle students go to Paul R. Smith Middle, and 134 Seven Springs students head to River Ridge Middle.

All the numbers are impacted by school choice, as not all students living in an area attend their zoned school. And officials are taking no steps to change that.

While proposing to move students who live within certain areas, the administration is not calling for those who are attending campuses through choice programs to reapply. That means children who attend schools such as Mitchell High from outside the attendance zone would be allowed to stay, while some who currently live within the boundaries could be forced out.

When similar recommendations have emerged in other counties, they have not been met with great enthusiasm. And in an area of Pasco where some parents have already called for a crackdown on children who they say are lying to attend certain schools, it's a possible flash point as the School Board progresses with its initiative.

The district also can expect criticism over whether its effort meets its intended goal.

District data suggest that the changes would ease the crunch at some of the most over-capacity schools, but only for a short time, while slowly increasing the population at some its most under-used facilities.

The planning staff indicates that Mitchell High, currently at about 114 percent of its capacity, would decrease to 103 percent of capacity after five years but is projected to be back to 112 percent by the tenth year. Anclote High, currently at 71 percent, would drop to 66 percent in the first year as the changes are phased in, and rise to 89 percent by the fifth year, after which it would remain steady.

In the 2017 rezoning process, residents and school leaders argued over the movement of boundaries between Anclote and Mitchell, noting that Anclote is limited in its growth because of its location along the Gulf of Mexico and Pinellas County to the south. But Mitchell, also along the southern county line, also should not box itself in, some contended.

A complicating factor will remain when and where the district builds another high school. It has land in the vicinity, but no immediate plans.

The district is accepting written comment on its proposal on its website. After the March 12 workshop, the School Board is scheduled to conduct a hearing on April 10, with a vote expected May 1.

If the plan is approved, affected families would be allowed to submit school choice applications afterward.

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