School boundary changes gain first-round approval

The Pasco County School Board has given first-round approval of proposed boundaries for Elementary School W, a school under construction in Wesley Chapel.

The unanimous vote came despite objections from parents living in Northwood and in Arbor Woods, who do not want their children moved to Denham Oaks Elementary, which is in Lutz.

“I want another option given to us,” said Amy Bracewell, who lives in Northwood.

“We moved here before we had children because of the area and the school options available to us,” said Bracewell, who now has two children who will be affected by the boundary shifts.

“Our family lives in Wesley Chapel, we shop in Wesley Chapel, and we worship in Wesley Chapel,” she said. “I feel that the changes you have proposed will have negative effects on the students that live in Northwood.”

The impacts go beyond the school day, she explained.

Pasco County School Board members will cast a final vote on proposed school boundaries for Elementary W, a school now being built off Mansfield Boulevard in Wesley Chapel. Some parents oppose the new school’s proposed boundaries because their children would be shifted to Denham Oaks in Lutz. (B.C. Manion/Staff Photo)

Pasco County School Board members will cast a final vote on proposed school boundaries for Elementary W, a school now being built off Mansfield Boulevard in Wesley Chapel. Some parents oppose the new school’s proposed boundaries because their children would be shifted to Denham Oaks in Lutz.
(B.C. Manion/Staff Photo)

“Any parents that use day care in Wesley Chapel will have to change to another day care, because they will not transport our children to Denham Oaks,” she said. So, children who have essentially known each other since birth will no longer be able to attend the same day care, she said.

Kellie Barragan, another Northwood parent, urged board members to reconsider the proposed boundary plan. “I really implore you to find a way for Northwood to go to Sand Pine (Elementary),” she said.

Chris Keller, who lives in Belle Chase, told board members “we understand the need for change. But, we don’t feel that the changes being proposed are in the best interests of our children.”

His chief concern is dealing with transportation issues that will arise — affecting childcare arrangements and after-school activities.

“A lot of the current places within Wesley Chapel will not serve the Lutz area and Denham Oaks,” Keller said.

He asked the board to direct district staff to take another look at the proposed boundaries.

Allen Altman, vice chairman of the school board, said he’s well aware of the area’s traffic issues because he has an office off State Road 54, near Denham Oaks Elementary.

However, he said, “Ultimately, at some point in time, we have to draw a line.”

Whenever a line is drawn, some people are going to be unhappy about where it was drawn, Altman said.

While the board can’t avoid geographic disruptions caused by new boundaries, it can address concerns about educational services, said Altman, noting he’s heard concerns from parents who are worried about losing services for academically gifted students.

Altman said he would support the proposed boundaries with the stipulation that the district comes back with a plan for how it will address that issue.

Board member Cynthia Armstrong and Board Chairwoman Joanne Hurley agreed with Altman.

After the vote, Vincent Iglio, who lives in Arbor Woods, urged the board to consider the consequences of the proposed boundaries.

“We’re not drawing lines based on actuarial tables. We’re drawing lines based on students, communities and families,” Iglio said.

He urged the board to consider “a reasonable option” which he said would allow the children living in Arbor Woods to attend Sand Pine Elementary.

During a recent community meeting at Denham Oaks Elementary, Chris Williams, the director of planning for Pasco County Schools, told those gathered that the boundary committee recommended that the Northwood subdivision, including Arbor Woods, be sent to Denham Oaks Elementary.

Iglio expressed frustration at the district’s process.

“I believed in my heart that these were open for public debate. All I’ve seen so far is a defense of the first option,” Iglio said.

Although she gave first-round approval of the proposed boundaries, Hurley said has not made her final decision yet.

“I’m always open to hearing from the public until right before the second hearing,” Hurley said.

The board will have its second and final hearing on Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be in the school district complex, Building No. 3 North, at 7205 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.

Published December 9, 2015

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