New school boundaries approved

Pasco County School Board members adopted boundaries for Elementary School W in Wesley Chapel, despite objections by parents living in Northwood and Arbor Woods.

In approving the boundaries, the board members also approved a plan by school district staff to add gifted services to Denham Oaks Elementary School in Lutz.

Parents had objected to their children losing gifted services, and the district responded – at the recommendation of board member Allen Altman and other board members – by adding the services at Denham Oaks.

Some parents also voiced concerns about a waiting list for the child care program at Denham Oaks, but Superintendent Kurt Browning said additional staff is expected to be hired for the program.

The board’s unanimous vote on the school boundaries came despite concerns voiced repeatedly by parents who wanted to keep their children at schools within their Wesley Chapel community.

They said shifting their children to the Lutz school would disrupt their established day care arrangements. They also said it would be harder for commuting parents to make it to after-school events.

Some said they had moved into their neighborhoods specifically because of the schools serving them. And, they also voiced concerns about the impacts that the boundary change would have on their child’s assigned middle school and high school.

Parents also asked if children entering fifth-grade could be grandfathered in, which some board members said the district should try to do, if possible.

Ray Bonti, assistant superintendent for support services, said the district has a past practice of allowing parents of children going into fifth-graders to apply for school choice to attend that school.

Board member Cynthia Armstrong, who made the motion to approve the boundary change, said she realized the boundary change “is painful for the parents.”

But, she added, “We do have to sometimes make very difficult decisions.”

Board member Altman, who seconded the motion, said offering the gifted services at Denham Oaks is important. The district may not be able to alleviate geographic impacts of boundary shifts, but should do what it can to ensure that students have the same academic opportunities, he said, during the first public hearing on the boundary change.

Board member Alison Crumbley noted that, “Those of you who came out tonight, you’re the kind of parents that make schools really good. You could be the core of leaders, and your children, I’m sure, too, in the school. And that’s a really valuable asset.”

Steve Luikart, another board member, who is a former educator said, “When the parents get on board and say, ‘Whatever it is, we’re going to make the best of it.’ Their students will make the best of it. It’s going to start in the home.

“We’re having to make decisions that we don’t like making. But, the mending is going to start at home. It will be up to you as parents to make that transition as easy and as simple as possible,” Luikart said.

But, he also noted that the school district will do what it can to help.

Published December 23, 2015




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