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Hernando School Board votes to relocate students from overcrowded K-8 school

Fourth-grade teacher Lauren Scire teaches a class of more than 40 students in a science lab at Winding Waters K-8 School.
Fourth-grade teacher Lauren Scire teaches a class of more than 40 students in a science lab at Winding Waters K-8 School.
Published Sep. 20, 2014

WEEKI WACHEE — The Hernando County School Board this week declared the overcrowding at Winding Waters K-8 School an imminent risk for students and authorized superintendent Lori Romano to take immediate steps to remedy the situation.

As reported previously, the school is over capacity. During the first weeks of this school year, classes have been held on the stage, in work rooms, in teacher break rooms and even in the hallway.

As of Tuesday, enrollment was at 1,404. The fire marshal determined earlier this month that the capacity is 1,400.

The 4-0 vote by the School Board on Tuesday allows Romano to send any new students who are zoned for Winding Waters to other schools. The district said at least 25 students have been sent to Pine Grove Elementary School and seven have been sent to West Hernando Middle School. Those are the two schools that Winding Waters students would have attended before the school opened three years ago. For the most recent school year, Pine Grove was a "D" school in the state's grading system and West Hernando was a "C," according to the Florida Department of Education. Winding Waters received a "B."

While the School Board formally authorized students to be moved out of their zoned schools, the district had closed enrollment at Winding Waters before the vote and was already enrolling students at other schools.

No students at any time were prevented from enrolling at another district school, spokesman Eric Williams said.

Board attorney Dennis Alfonso said Winding Waters officially hit its capacity Sept. 13.

"This is an extraordinary circumstance," he said

The emergency attendance order will remain in effect for 90 days. The board also directed the superintendent to come back with recommendations for further policy revisions that would alleviate the problem.

Before approving the vote, the board asked Romano how this happened.

She said that when the school was initially opened, it had enrolled an excessive number of students into the fifth-grade class through school choice. Those fifth-graders are now in the eighth grade.

"It's a very large class," she said.

On top of that, this year the school came in at about 80 students above its projection of 1,327 students.

With some schools significantly under capacity, board member Dianne Bonfield asked whether the district had formed a committee to investigate redistricting and redrawing boundaries for schools.

"That is the solution," Bonfield said.

Contact Danny Valentine at dvalentine@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.