Compared to school boundary hearings in recent years, the crowd was relatively small at a public hearing last week on proposed boundary changes for Pasco County Schools for the 2020-2021 school year.
Still, concerns expressed by parents were similar to the types of concerns generally raised at school boundary meetings.
Boundary changes planned for next year primarily involve changes needed due to the opening of Cypress Creek Middle School, set for next fall.
Initially, the school district had planned to open a high school and a middle school on its campus at 8701 Old Pasco Road. But, it couldn’t afford to build both, so it used its high school campus to serve students in grades six through 12.
When the new school opens next year, the middle school students on the campus will be shifted to the new school, and boundary changes will fill up remaining space at both the high school and the middle school.
The district’s proposal calls for filling the vast majority of those seats by shifting students from Seven Oaks now assigned to John Long Middle, to Cypress Creek Middle.
It also would shift Seven Oaks students now assigned to Wiregrass Ranch High, over to Cypress Creek High.
The change would not apply to rising seniors, who would be grandfathered in.
And, before the public hearing began, Superintendent Kurt Browning announced the proposal also calls for grandfathering in rising juniors.
The seniors would continue to be able to ride district buses; the juniors would not.
Other students can apply for school choice during the open enrollment period.
Parents who spoke at the public hearing offered a litany of reasons they oppose the proposed boundary shifts.
Mike Schulze, who lives in Seven Oaks, put it this way: “This is a personal thing for our family, for my son. This is not just a number on a sheet.”
He asked the board to consider the impact the boundary shift would have on students who will not be grandfathered in, including his son.
“His dream since he was in third grade was to go to Wiregrass Ranch High School and play basketball,” Schulze said. He asked board members to consider allowing all students to finish out their education in the school where they started.
Other parents also asked board members not to disrupt the academic or social life of their children.
They told board members they chose to live in Seven Oaks because the subdivision’s students were assigned to John Long and Wiregrass Ranch.
They voiced concerns about sending their children to schools that are farther away.
They questioned the decision to reassign school boundaries for an established neighborhood, instead of changing boundaries in newer neighborhoods.
They asked why the district can’t build additional wings at Wiregrass Ranch to accommodate additional students, to avoid redrawing lines.
Many of those same issues were raised in emails sent to district staff regarding the proposed changes. There also were criticisms of the district’s lack of planning for future growth.
Browning said the district considered building an addition at Wiregrass Ranch, but to do so would mean removing facilities that are needed for the school’s athletics, so that isn’t possible.
Board members Allen Altman and Cynthia Armstrong addressed comments related to planning.
“The school district does not get funding for a seat, for a student, until that student is already enrolled in school and counted,” Altman said.
Armstrong added: “It’s actually by state statute that we cannot start building a school until we have the total money in the bank to finish it. That makes the monetary part very tough, since we don’t get the funds until after the people are here.
“The other problem we have is locating school sites where the new buildings are going to be. We don’t always have access to obtaining a school site that would be affordable for us.”
There are other boundary changes proposed that would affect an area near State Road 52 and the Suncoast Parkway that is currently undeveloped, but has been approved for a massive development.
The proposal calls for assigning the entire area to Mary Giella Elementary, Crews Lake Middle School and Hudson High.
Under the current boundaries, some of that future growth would have been assigned to Land O’ Lakes schools.
The Pasco County School Board is set to vote on the proposed changes at its Nov. 19 meeting, at 6 p.m., at the school district headquarters, 7227 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
Pasco school choice
Pasco County Schools is hosting expo-style events to inform families about school choice options in the district.
The west-side Pasco Pathways Expo is set for Nov. 18 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at River Ridge High School, 11646 Towne Center Road, New Port Richey.
The east-side Pasco Pathways Expo is on Nov. 21 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Wesley Chapel High School, 30651 Wells Road in Wesley Chapel.
The expos will feature informational sessions that cover the general application process. In addition, many of the district’s schools will showcase their unique educational options, such as STEM and STEAM magnet schools, the Cambridge International Education Programme, International Baccalaureate, Wendell Krinn Technical High School, Career Pathways, Pasco eSchool, and more.
The school choice application window will run from Dec. 3 to Dec. 13 for middle and high schools, and from Jan. 21 to Jan. 31, for elementary schools.
For more information, or to register to attend either of the expos, parents should visit PascoSchools.org, and click on the Pasco Pathways link.
Published November 13, 2019