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  1. Pasco

Planning meetings set for Pasco school boundary changes

With parents already agitating for information, the Pasco County school district has set its meeting dates to craft new attendance zones for several schools across the county.

Panels will convene for three separate rezonings, but the one involving Mitchell High School and Seven Springs Middle School in the Trinity area is gaining the most attention. Many parents whose children currently attend those schools do not want to see their homes drawn into neighboring school boundaries, and they've already formed their own steering committees to create a plan of attack.

School district officials have made clear, though, that Mitchell is overcrowded and its enrollment is projected to grow even larger, so it needs relief. Built for 1,853 students, it had 2,201 in attendance on the first day of classes this fall -- that's about 75 higher than anticipated.

Mitchell had grown even larger once before, reaching 2,570 students in 2008. The opening of Anclote High in 2010 brought the campus back down to about 1,800 students, where it sat until 2014, when numbers again began to rise.

Now, Mitchell sits at 118 percent of its capacity, while Anclote and other schools have room to spare. After 10 days of classes, Anclote was at 71 percent of its capacity, with Gulf High at 81 percent and River Ridge High at 85 percent.

The idea of sending their children to one of those three schools has rattled some parents, who have said they do not prefer those lower performing campuses. Already, groups are pointing fingers at each other on social media. Some have said the various neighborhoods in the Mitchell zone are pitting one against the other to keep seats at Mitchell, while parents with kids in the other schools' are sounding offended by the criticisms leveled at their campuses.

Some residents have claimed some students have presented false addresses to attend Mitchell, and are calling for an address audit. District officials have not dismissed that idea, or adopted it.

District staff will attempt to keep the discussions focused on facts and figures, and away from emotions, as they work to balance enrollments among the schools. Principals of each affected school have appointed two parents to serve on the committees alongside the district workers.

The committee dates for the Mitchell rezoning are: 7:30 a.m. October 5, Seven Springs Middle School; 8 a.m. October 26, Anclote High School; and 8 a.m. November 7, River Ridge High School (if needed). A parent meeting is set for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 14 at the River Ridge High performing arts center.

The committee dates for High School GGG, which will affect Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch high schools, are: 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 16 and Oct. 20, both at Wesley Chapel High. A parent meeting has not been scheduled.

Committee and parent meetings have not been set for Elementary B in the Ballantrae subdivision.