Classroom crowding means tough choices for Florida school boards

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Henry B. Plant High School in south Tampa is one of the Hillsborough County school district's more crowded campuses. District officials are contemplating whether to redraw all attendance zones.
Henry B. Plant High School in south Tampa is one of the Hillsborough County school district's more crowded campuses. District officials are contemplating whether to redraw all attendance zones. [ Times (2004) ]
Published Mar. 24, 2022|Updated Mar. 24, 2022

The big story: Forget setting budgets and choosing superintendents. Ask school board members to rate the hardest decision they face, and they’ll likely tell you it’s redrawing school attendance zones.

Families and communities come to identify with their local schools, and many are loath to take a forced change without a fight.

But when districts have some schools filled beyond capacity, while others sit half empty, something has to give. And building more classrooms in the crowded areas isn’t always the answer.

The Hillsborough County School Board is staring that scenario in the face right now. And it’s taking steps that members know will be unpopular.

A consultant is on board to review all the school zones with an eye toward evening out enrollments, using schools efficiently and maintaining or improving students’ socioeconomic diversity. Read about the initiative here.

It’s not just Hillsborough County. The fast growing St. Johns County school district faces a similar situation as it copes with growth, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Hot topics

Student discipline: The Pasco County school district announced it will be taking a tougher stance on students caught fighting.

Superintendent turnover: A top Pinellas County school district official declared his bid to replace retiring Mike Grego.

Teacher pay: Pinellas County teachers concluded contract negotiations without gaining a longevity supplement for veteran educators.

School security: All Alachua County public schools are implementing the “I Love U Guys” action plan to improve school safety, WUFT reports.

Testing: Florida’s decision to transition to progress monitoring for certain subjects might not meet federal requirements, and could make it harder to determine how students are progressing post-pandemic, K-12 Dive reports.

Gender lessons: Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he intends to sign HB 1557 dealing with gender lessons and health services in schools. What does the measure, which critics have branded “don’t say gay,” aim to do? The New York Times reviews the language. • Politifact also examined several claims about the bill’s content. • Bill supporters, contending opponents have smeared the measure’s true meaning, read the entire legislation aloud during a Leon County School Board meeting, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Other school news

Manatee County superintendent Cynthia Saunders settled with the state over her role in allegedly manipulating graduation rates. The local NAACP chapter wants her removed over the scandal, WUSF reports. More from the Bradenton Herald.

Music matters. The state has extended an early childhood music pilot program in three Florida counties, Fresh Take Florida reports.

Palm Beach County voters will get to decide whether to renew a local-option property tax for schools. The measure, first approved in 2018, helps pay for academic programs and safety services, WPTV reports. • The School Board also approved an agreement to place sheriff’s deputies in some schools, WPTV reports.

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