New plan for west Pasco schools unlikely for March meeting

District officials will continue seeking solutions to boost performance, though.
Mittye P. Locke Elementary School in New Port Richey was recommended for closure by the Pasco school district administration. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Mittye P. Locke Elementary School in New Port Richey was recommended for closure by the Pasco school district administration. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Published February 12

Pasco school district leaders do not expect to bring a revised proposal for improving schools along the U.S. 19 corridor to the School Board’s meeting March 5, where a vote on Project RISE had originally been scheduled.

School Board members balked at a key component of the administration’s Project RISE — the closure of two schools to help pay for the changes at others — prompting the superintendent’s team to explore other ways to achieve their goals. But no quick solutions are likely.

“The general perception is we need to sit down and work out how we’re going to accomplish what we want to accomplish innovatively, without shutting down schools,” deputy superintendent Ray Gadd said.

That will take some time.

The leadership team is not going to stop talking about its ideas for the community, or working on the initiative, though. Gadd has kept plans to address civic organizations, to “frankly and candidly” discuss the needs of the schools in the west Pasco areas with rising poverty and comparatively lower levels of family education.

Officials could easily become distracted by growth demands along the State Road 54 corridor running from Trinity to Zephyrhills, Gadd acknowledged. But the administration remains resolute to find ways to provide the maximum amount of support to the west Pasco children, he added.

The administration cannot shut down or consolidate schools without board approval. It can, however, change academic programs without such a vote.

One other possible complicating factor could be school grades and state accountability rules. If Hudson Elementary, for example, receives another D grade based on state test results, it would face the possibility of a turnaround plan regardless.

The state has limited choices available to districts in that regard. Now, turnaround schools may be operated by an outside management firm, converted into a charter school, or closed. The state grade outcome would severely limit the board’s discretion.

Gadd said he is hopeful that the district will be able to provide such offerings as a STEM magnet elementary school on the west side. It’s now just a matter of figuring out the most efficient ways to make such things happen.

“We’re just not going to quit," he said.

Related coverage: Superintendent to reconsider west-side schools plan after board balks at closures

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