Rezoning plan passed unanimously by Pasco school board

- The Pasco County school board voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a rezoning plan that will change the boundaries for hundreds of students.

The plan is almost identical to one that was passed before the 2017-'18 school year, but that one was tossed out by a judge following a lawsuit filed by several families who claimed the district violated Florida Sunshine Laws by holding private meetings to discuss the matter.

The district has been discussing rezoning the students attending schools in the west side of the county to deal with a growing population resulting in overcrowding at J.W. Mitchell High School and Seven Springs Middle School.

"We're trying to alleviate that growth. We cannot keep up with that growth and we're trying the very best that we can in order to minimize the impact that it's having on kids and teachers in our classrooms," said Superintendent Kurt Browning. "We want to do the right thing for kids and the plan that the district came up with and the board approved today, I believe is in the best interest of our kids and our families."

Although more than 400 students will have their school boundaries changed for the next school year, Browning said the total that will potentially have to transition to a new school is roughly half that amount.

Hundreds of students were already moved to new schools after the board approved the first plan. Following the judge's decision, those students were given the chance to return to their original schools, but few chose to.

A lot of parents tried one last time Tuesday morning to urge the board to reconsider.

"It seems really sad now that we've gone through all this effort just to upset another round of kids and we haven't solved any problems," said Bret Tobey, who has been among the parents speaking out against the plan.

"There's a lot of trepidation as we're going into the next couple of years. What in the world are we to expect?" added Heide Janshon, who has been similarly active in trying to convince the district to look at other rezoning options.

Prior to the vote, school board Vice Chairman Alison Crumbley said there are more than 1,000 homes being built within the J.W. Mitchell-Seven Springs boundaries. That's a reason some parents worry this solution is only a bandage on the problem and the district will be at the rezoning drawing board again in a matter of years, or even months.

"We're going to be right back here in a number of months. This isn't something like, 'Oh, we've done this and now we can move on.' They're keeping these neighborhoods in turmoil because we haven't fixed anything," Tobey said.

Browning said Mitchell and Seven Springs will likely remain at capacity and couldn't predict whether rezoning will be on the table again in the near future.

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