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  1. The Education Gradebook

Superintendent asks for patience as school boundaries are redrawn

A banner has popped up lately in some west Pasco communities, expressing growing parental angst with their children's school assignments next fall.

"Do you know where your kids are going to school next year?" the sign reads. "Probably not."

They're worried about how an anticipated revision of attendance boundaries will affect their neighborhoods. Many have started speculating which communities will go where as the district tries to balance enrollment at middle and high schools.

A few have expressed outrage that they'll be removed from their preferred school, Mitchell High, while families moving into homes still under construction will get to attend there. Mitchell is in one of Pasco's high-growth areas, and has about 500 more students than it's built to hold.

Superintendent Kurt Browning, who has been inundated with correspondence, has asked for patience.

"They're jumping the gun before we've even started the process," Browning said. "Everything I've read in emails has never been said by this district."

District planners and other key staffers have met once to discuss the zoning issues. That was the first step in a months-long effort that will end with a vote of the School Board, most likely in February.

Some parents, yet to be selected, will serve on a committee charged with looking at several possibilities for changing the attendance zones. Their meetings will be open to the public, with the documents posted on the district's website.

"We have a process that includes getting feedback from parents," Browning said. "They'll have ample, ample time to have input, share their opinions and get factual information."

READING FIRST: Ten Pasco County elementary schools are trying to cope this fall with competing legislative mandates for students' time: One requires 150 minutes of weekly physical education, and the other an added hour of daily reading instruction.

School leaders have asked the Pasco School Board to waive the P.E. requirement to make room for the reading.

"For some schools (or grade levels), depending on their schedules, it is difficult to meet the required P.E. minutes in addition to the extra reading minutes," teaching and learning director Rayann Mitchell explained via email. "So the waiver gives them a little flexibility. For example, P.E. might be 30 minutes instead of 45."

The state law on physical education offers leeway for students in remedial courses. All the schools making this request appear on the state's Lowest 300 list for reading achievement on the Florida Standards Assessments. They are required to provide added daily reading lessons to all students who scored below Level 5 on that test.

Cox Elementary School principal Claudia Steinacker said her school received a similar waiver each of the years it has appeared on the 300 list. Students continued to take P.E. classes twice a week, she said, but their other teacher-led physical activity was curtailed to make way for the reading.

That doesn't mean the children don't have time to move around, or that teachers don't incorporate breaks, movement and interaction into their lessons. It's just that the kids don't always get the full 150 minutes set forth in the law.

"Our parents support it," Steinacker said. "These families really want their children to get all the (reading) support they can. They know when they get home, they can give their kids the time they need to run around."

The other Pasco elementary schools that sought the waiver are Calusa, Centennial, Chasco, Gulf Trace, Lacoochee, Northwest, Pasco, Richey and Seven Springs.

NAME THAT SCHOOL: The Pasco County School Board is back in the business of naming schools, as its construction efforts again are booming.

The board went the location route this fall with the opening of Wiregrass Elementary School and has two more opportunities coming up, with High School GGG on Old Pasco Road in Wesley Chapel and Elementary B in the Bexley Ranch subdivision of Odessa getting ready to debut a year from now.

To prepare, the district has asked students, community members and other interested parties to submit naming ideas. They can be place-oriented, which has been the board's preference lately, but also can include other concepts, including a person's name, such as Charles Rushe Middle, or broader themes, such as Veterans Elementary.

Recently, people have suggested naming schools after postmasters, former principals and presidents, among others.

District officials ask that if you submit a person's name, the person is "recognized for his or her outstanding civic or educational contribution." The names of elected officials or district employees won't be considered unless they have been out of their positions at least two years. Once adopted, the names are considered permanent unless the building or its use changes.

Conceptual or place names should be "descriptive and brief," according to the district.

The deadline for suggestions with explanations to the district is Oct. 1. Email separate submissions for each school to dhebert@pasco.k12.fl.us and type "Elementary B" or "High School GGG" in the subject line, fax to (813) 794-2716 or mail to Deborah Hebert, Pasco County Schools Communications & Government Relations Dept., 7227 Land O'Lakes Blvd., Land O'Lakes, FL 34638.

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