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Hudson closure approved, school district prepares to rezone elementary students

District schools also have won accolades for Advanced Placement participation, community services.
The attendance zones for Northwest, Gulf Highlands and Fox Hollow elementary schools would shift under a proposed rezoning that also includes the closing of Hudson Elementary. [Pasco County School District]

Northwest, Gulf Highlands and Fox Hollow elementary schools in western Pasco County all could see hundreds of new students next fall, as part of a proposal to redraw attendance zones along the U.S. 19 corridor after the closure of long-struggling Hudson Elementary.

The recommended map would send about 250 children — half of Hudson’s current student body — to Northwest, and the other half to Gulf Highlands. To create space in Gulf Highlands, the plan also calls for taking a piece of its current zone, roughly south of Jasmine Boulevard, and shifting it into Fox Hollow Elementary.

Each of the schools has about 20 percent of its available seats unused. As proposed, Fox Hollow would grow to be 96 percent filled, Gulf Highlands would sit at 109 percent of its capacity, and Northwest would land at 112 percent of its permanent size.

Northwest is slated for a construction project in 2020-21 that would add classrooms.

The district plans a parent night at 5:30 p.m. March 11 at Hudson Elementary to review the map, with a School Board public hearing set for April 7. Final action would be scheduled for the board’s April 21 meeting.

The State Board of Education has given Pasco its blessing to close Hudson. In a Feb. 12 meeting, the State Board authorized the plan with no discussion, although it set some requirements.

Specifically, the State Board mandated that the district reassign the children to schools graded C or higher. It also instructed the district to monitor the students’ academic performance for the next three years.

District and school leaders, including parents, already have begun meeting to prepare for the transition to the new school configuration.

TOP HONORS: Not so many years ago, several Pasco County high schools barely registered when it came to Advanced Placement course and test participation.

District officials increased the availability of the courses, which can lead to college credit, in all the schools — not just the ones serving more wealthy, suburban communities.

The numbers improved over the years.

And now the Pasco County school district is one of two in Florida to earn recognition on the AP Honor Roll, which recognizes districts that improve access to Advanced Placement coursework while maintaining or increasing outcomes.

The other district is DeSoto County.

The news came out as the state Department of Education announced that Florida led the nation in the percentage of 2019 high school graduates taking at least one AP exam, at 56 percent.

The state also had the nation’s third-highest AP exam passing rate, and the third best improvement over a decade in the percentage of graduates earning a 3 or higher on at least one exam.

“Advanced Placement courses are a gateway to achieving success in college, career and ultimately in life, and I am extremely proud of these results," said education commissioner Richard Corcoran, formerly a lawmaker representing west Pasco County.

COMMUNITY SCHOOL: Five years after launching its initiative, Gulfside Elementary School in Holiday is an official Community Partnership School.

The authorizers at the University of Central Florida certified the program after a daylong visit and a review of documents and paperwork.

The certification will be in force for five years, after which the school will have to seek renewal.

District officials have said they hope that the new status will help Gulfside qualify for additional grants and support to further expand the services it offers to its students, families and surrounding community. Since its inception, the school has grown its effort to include multiple partnerships with private and government programs, including a food and clothes pantry, weekly dinners and classes for parents, free before- and after-school enrichment and tutoring, and medical services such as dental hygiene treatments.

It also has opened a classroom wing for its activities, and hired a full-time staff to take care of needs previously tended to by teachers and others.

The School Board has said it wants to use Gulfside as a model on which to base improvements at its K-12 campus in Hudson.