Advertisement
  1. Education

Plans for new Cypress Creek Middle School placed on fast track

School chief Kurt Browning wants to expedite the building of a new middle that would be next to Cypress Creek High, above, which is serving as both a middle and high school.
Published Aug. 23, 2017

With approval of increased impact fees in hand, Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning said he plans to "fast track" construction of a new middle school serving Wesley Chapel and surrounding areas.

"My hope is to get that up and open by 2019," Browning said of the school, which would rise on Old Pasco Road alongside Cypress Creek High, which currently is serving as both a middle and high school.

The School Board already has approved an architect for the project, potentially trimming the amount of time needed to ready the school by about six months. The site work to prepare the land was completed, as well, during construction of Cypress Creek.

The rise of a new school would require another attendance zone revision for the east Pasco area, where some residents fought hard over new boundaries put in place for this academic year.

Browning, who came under fire for his handling of the changes, said certain aspects of the next rezoning appear settled. Children currently assigned to Cypress Creek would not be moved, he said, and the bulk of crowding relief would come from John Long Middle.

He specifically mentioned the Seven Oaks subdivision as a target for reassignment, saying residents "know their neighborhood is going to be looked at."

The process for redrawing the maps, though, is likely to differ from the one that faced several legal challenges.

"I don't think the model is going to look the same," Browning said, adding that he hadn't settled on any specifics yet.

One likely outcome, though, could be the end of the parent and principal advisory committees that have served the district over time to guide the recommendations. Instead, Pasco might revise its method to look more like Hillsborough County's, where staffers design maps, collect public comments and then present proposals to the superintendent and School Board.

That model appears to meet the state rule-making law, which some parents insisted that Pasco follow.

An administrative law judge ruled that Pasco did follow that procedure properly. His ruling is under appeal.

"I don't want to cut out the public input," Browning said. "But I think the public involvement is going to be later in the process."

He suggested that, no matter the actual model, parents will continue to have ample opportunity to speak about their concerns, as well as submit written views. He also contended that, regardless of the process, people involved will come with a point of view.

SCHOOL NUMBERS: Early in the rezoning process, Browning said one of his goals in west Pasco was to fill vacant seats in schools that have sat under capacity. One key example was Anclote High, built for 1,651 but enrolling hundreds fewer.

To attract students without forcing them to attend, the district opened an advanced Cambridge program at Anclote, with the middle school component at Paul R. Smith Middle.

Paul R. Smith saw its enrollment jump by close to 150 students, from the fifth day of classes a year ago to that same day in 2017.

The same could not be said for Anclote High. Its numbers dipped by 126 students year to year, with a 56-person decline between the first and fifth days of this year.

Browning said part of the change was due to a shift of some students from Anclote to Gulf High this fall. But he also acknowledged that the Cambridge program had yet to prove the lure that officials had hoped.

Unlike Pasco High, which found early support when it debuted Cambridge, Anclote has not yet generated similar interest. Many families that had been slated to be rezoned out of Mitchell High used the district choice program to return to Mitchell, rather than look at Anclote.

The plan is to give the program more time, and perhaps to grow organically as middle school students rise through it.

"I want to give Cambridge an opportunity to develop," Browning said.

ANOTHER SALES TAX?: School Board members asked back in June for information about how a second sales tax supporting school construction might work.

Members of the county's impact fee advisory committee brought up the idea when considering all of the district's financial needs. The board did not discount it, even after commissioners rejected the concept of directly tying a sales tax referendum to the fee increase.

The district administration isn't hurrying to provide any details, though. And Browning is part of the reason why.

He said he wouldn't discount the idea, but also isn't keen on it.

"The voters have been extremely gracious with the Penny (for Pasco), and 45 percent of the penny is ours," he said. "We've been able to do a lot with it."

It's not enough money to do all of the district's projected construction work. But that doesn't mean the superintendent is ready and willing to ask for more.

"That will have to be a board conversation," he said — one that so far has not been scheduled.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or jsolochek@tampabay.com. Follow @jeffsolochek.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Colleen Beaudoin is selected Pasco County School Board chairwoman for 2020, and Allen Altman is named vice chairman. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Altman chosen as vice chairman.
  2. Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at pre-legislative news conference on Tuesday Oct. 29, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    He’s got a new voucher proposal, as well.
  3. Pasco school bus drivers are among those school-related employees who would get a 3.25 percent raise under a tentative contract agreement for 2019-20.
    District, union attention now turns to teacher contracts.
  4. Teacher Kate Newell watches seventh graders Aaron Roxberry and Jacob Iovino practice the slope-intercept formula in one of her weekly visits to their Bayonet Point Middle algebra class, which Newell usually teaches remotely. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  5. eSchool teacher Kate Newell holds a discussion-based assessment with eighth-grader Ariana Toro during a recent visit to Bayonet Point Middle School. Newell leads the math course remotely most days, but comes to campus at least once weekly to give her students some extra attention. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Principals increasingly turn to virtual instruction to fill their vacancies.
  6. Damian J. Fernandez, center, is introduced Monday as the new president of Eckerd College. He will succeed longtime president Donald R. Eastman III on July 1. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Damian Fernandez, 62, will succeed president Donald R. Eastman III, who steps down June 30 after leading the school for 19 years.
  7. The Florida Department of Education has approved another alternate assessment for third graders to demonstrate they read at or above grade level.
    The state also reminds schools to let those who struggle that scholarships for help are available.
  8. Trump supporters yell and show the middle finger at hecklers during Kimberly Guilfoyle's speech in the University Auditorium at the University of Florida on October 10, 2019. Guilfoyle spoke about her childhood as a first-generation American, her experiences as a lawyer and her support for the Trump family.  CHRIS DAY  |  Chris Day
    Student senator Ben Lima explains why he’s pursuing the charges against Michael Murphy.
  9. A fledgling movement of parents and community members in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are speaking out about sex education in public schools. They say the curriculums are not explicit enough. And they worry that kids don’t have enough information — or that they get it too late — to protect themselves against the risks of sexual intimacy. [Shutterstock] SHUTTERSTOCK
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Donald Trump Jr. speaks before the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    University of Florida student body president Michael Murphy received a resolution for his impeachment Tuesday. Then the state’s Republican Party started an online petition and fundraiser.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement