School boundaries gain preliminary approval

The Pasco County School Board has given preliminary approval to new school boundaries for the 2017-2018 school year.

The board’s action came after a contentious public hearing on the proposed boundaries for Cypress Creek Middle/High School, set to open in fall 2017.

The proposed boundaries for Bexley Elementary, being built off State Road 54, on the other hand, drew no public opposition.

Bexley is intended to reduce crowding at Oakstead and Odessa elementary schools. The proposed boundaries also provide additional students for Lake Myrtle Elementary.

Kurt Browning

Cypress Creek Middle/High School will open initially for students in sixth through 11th grades, and will add a senior class during its second year of operations.

Its proposed boundaries will affect Rushe, John Long and Weightman middle schools, and for Sunlake, Wesley Chapel and Wiregrass Ranch high schools.

Despite considerable opposition, school board members supported Superintendent Kurt Browning’s recommended option for the Cypress Creek Middle/High boundaries.

Some speakers criticized Browning and questioned his motives for disregarding the boundary committee’s recommended option and substituting his own recommendation.

Others, however, applauded Browning, saying his option makes the most sense.

In a letter to parents, Browning said his recommended option would result in the least disruption and avoid the possibility of Seven Oaks being rezoned twice in as few as four years.

School board member Steve Luikart did not support any of the proposed boundaries.

Instead, Luikart said if students need to be rezoned, it should only be at the end of elementary school or middle school.

Rezoning them at any other time is disruptive, Luikart said.

School Board Chairman Allen Altman said after reading scores of emails, he came to the conclusion that even people living in the same community can’t agree on the best solution.

In the end, board members have to do their own due diligence, Altman said.

Colleen Beaudoin, who joined the board this year, was taking part in her first rezoning process. She said she found it heartbreaking to see neighborhoods pitted against each other.

Board members Cynthia Armstrong and Alison Crumbley said they understand that parents don’t want their children rezoned, and they emphasized they don’t take the issue lightly.

While some people were thrilled by the board’s vote to back Browning’s recommendation, others were clearly dejected.

The board is slated to take final action on school boundaries for 2017-2018 at its Jan. 17 meeting.

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Published December 28, 2016

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