LAND O’LAKES — The Pasco County School Board won’t be drawing member Alison Crumbley out of her District 4 base representing southwest-central Pasco, despite a proposal by the County Commission.
The board on Tuesday informally accepted five maps its own administration presented to rebalance the population in each of the member districts, which changed in size since the last redistricting took place a decade ago. The largest gains came in District 2, which includes the growth areas of Wesley Chapel.
Board members had expected to share the commission’s map, as has been the practice for the past 30 years. But that plan took a detour after commissioner Kathryn Starkey asked to have the lines redrawn to include her second home in her area — a change that would have bumped Crumbley out of her district.
“We cannot use those maps because it would be contrary to the law,” School Board attorney Dennis Alfonso advised the board Tuesday.
He referred to the Florida law that states that while school boards may alter their districts at any meeting in an odd-numbered year, no change may affect the residence qualifications of any incumbent member.
“We’re going to follow that statute, lock, stock and barrel,” Alfonso said.
Superintendent Kurt Browning was the county election supervisor at the time the county and board moved to shared district maps. It was his idea, he said, proposed to help voters more easily identify the elected officials who represent their communities.
“We did it to cut down on voter confusion,” Browning said, noting at the time information was not available online as it is today.
He acknowledged that nothing in law required uniform maps, and said the change should not have a dramatic effect as board members will continue to be elected countywide despite the residence requirement.
Current election supervisor Brian Corley agreed, saying any switch would not matter to his office.
“We’ll just have two sets of maps,” Corley said. “If it was single-member districts, I would probably have an issue with that.”
Because Pasco is not a charter county, it would not have single-member districts without a voter referendum to approve that idea. No such proposal has come forward, Corley said.
Crumbley had expressed dismay and anger at the commissioners for their redistricting plan, particularly since no one alerted her to the possible change in advance. No one in the school district was consulted, several officials said.
On Tuesday, she and others thanked the staff for scrambling to create maps that the board can act upon within the legal time frame.
“It’s unfortunate we will have have to have two different maps for the community to look at,” added board member Megan Harding.
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The board plans to publish the map proposals in advance of its Nov. 2 meeting, where it will accept public comment. It is scheduled to vote on a final map on Nov. 16.
Buses and bell schedules
In other action Tuesday, the board heard a presentation about the administration’s plan to change school start and end times in order to cope with a severe bus driver shortage.
Transportation officials told the board that as many as 60 buses regularly arrive at school late, with about 24 of those showing up 15 minutes or more after classes begin daily. The changes, which would shift bell times for many children by 30 to 40 minutes, would make it easier for buses to get them to school on time, they said.
Board members had several questions about the details of making the switch, and repeatedly said they don’t want to do it. But they also suggested they saw no other way to solve the problems, which have been impacting schools with the highest academic and social needs the most.
“With all this loss of instructional time every day, something has to be done,” board member Colleen Beaudoin said. “We just can’t have kids falling further behind.”
The issues are not limited to Pasco County.
The Hillsborough County School Board, for instance, also touched on the idea of changing start times because of driver shortages during its meeting Tuesday.
One Pasco bus driver warned the board that although the idea might sound like it will work, it will have a backlash. Debbie Parker said parents and children have complained to her about the concept, as have her colleagues.
She suggested more drivers will leave if the changes occur.
“I applaud you for making some effort. But it’s not the right effort,” Parker said. “It’s the pay.”
The board plans to formally consider the plan at its Nov. 2 meeting.
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