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Latest east Pasco school rezoning gets subdued reaction from parents

The Seven Oaks subdivision would be redrawn into the Cypress Creek Middle-High feeder pattern.

What a difference a few years make.

A couple dozen east Pasco County parents, primarily from the Seven Oaks subdivision of Wesley Chapel, attended a rainy-day workshop Monday on proposed school boundary map changes that would shift hundreds of children into Cypress Creek middle and high schools. They currently attend John Long Middle and Wiregrass Ranch High.

Most of them sounded resigned to the fact that the rezoning was inevitable, and talked about how to make it manageable for their children.

“It’s hard on the kids,” said Carrie Bequette, whose family moved to the area two years ago and had hoped for some stability.

Helen Amendolaro said her biggest concern is the longer drive along two-lane roads to the Cypress Creek campus on Old Pasco Road.

“I know it’s a good school,” she said of Cypress Creek Middle-High, which will split into two distinct schools when new sixth- through eighth-grade buildings are completed in the fall. “The biggest issue is the drive.”

Nearly three years ago, Seven Oaks residents came out in droves to fight to keep their subdivision in the Wiregrass Ranch feeder pattern. Families in other sections of Wesley Chapel, including Meadow Pointe, battled equally hard to stop their neighborhoods from being rezoned.

Accusations flew as multiple maps were considered and reconsidered. Legal challenges were filed as district officials shifted their stance on Seven Oaks’ fate.

The community won a reprieve that time around, but with the clear understanding that it would top the list when the board opens Cypress Creek Middle.

Related: <b>RELATED: </b> Pasco superintendent targets new east side middle school in four years, if impact fees approved

Nicole Achter said she attended almost every committee meeting, workshop and hearing about the 2016-17 rezoning, hoping to stop it from affecting her two children. This time around, with only one proposal on the table, she said her main effort will be on winning school choice to stay put.

“The schools here are going to be crowded forever,” Achter said. “Why not do it in phases and let them finish the school where they started?”

She raised concerns about how difficult it can be for a high school junior to maintain leadership roles, and to keep a strong connection with teachers and classmates, if involuntarily transferred just as he or she is preparing to apply for college.

Former board member Steve Luikart had proposed doing what Achter suggested the last time the board rezoned east Pasco communities. The idea didn’t go anywhere then, and it appeared to have little chance this time, as well.

District officials said they need to fill the new seats being built, rather than slowly moving students, especially if crowding were to continue at John Long and Wiregrass Ranch — the primary targets for reducing enrollment. Their plan would allow rising seniors to be grandfathered. Students in career academies that are not available elsewhere also will be given priority.

Others would have to apply for permission to stay in their current schools.

The School Board is to hold a public hearing on the proposal on Nov. 5, with a final vote scheduled for Nov. 19.

Find all the details about the proposal at http://www.pasco.k12.fl.us/planning/page/rezoning/.

Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at jsolochek@tampabay.com.

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