NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - Parents of hundreds of Pasco County students were left stunned this week after receiving an email from Superintendent Kurt Browning about changes to the district's plan to rezone school boundaries.
Browning decided to disregard an advisory committee's recommendation for the eastern side of the county and choose a completely different plan, while making a slight adjustment to a different committee's recommendation for the western side.
The superintendent's choice for the Wesley Chapel area, known as "Option 13," forced a lot of families to go from "safe" to "rezoned" or vice versa.
"The superintendent felt that it was only fair to look at the numbers again, look at the proposals and determined that 13 was the most fair for everyone," said Linda Cobbe, a spokesperson for Pasco County Schools.
The district has been discussing the rezoning plan for months; it's needed to deal with overcrowding at Wiregrass Ranch High School, which is over capacity by more than 800 students.
On top of rezoning, the district is building Cypress Creek High School, which is set to open next fall.
Browning was concerned if he went with the advisory committee's recommendation, some students would be rezoned a second time while they're high school and moved to Cypress Creek.
Cobbe said the option was always open for the superintendent to make his own recommendation to the school board.
"It was never represented that what they recommend is what will happen. They've known all along that it's the superintendent's decision on what to recommend," she said.
That's not consolation to families, some of whom are seeing students in their communities split up.
"You not only have the holidays, you have to deal with this, you have to deal with everything," said Derrick Dosal, whose daughter goes to Wiregrass and son goes to John Long Middle School. "Some people are talking about moving. I don't know if I'm going to move but it's a possibility."
In some cases, siblings are getting split up; Natalie Sheer said her oldest son would be able to stay at Wiregrass but her other son, who is an incoming freshman, would have to go to Wesley Chapel High School.
"With this happening, one will be riding a bus to school while the other one is able to stay at Wiregrass where he's been at," Sheer said. "The email was shocking. I didn't expect it to get switched like that."
The school board will have the final say. Rezoning plans for the eastern and western sides of the county will be discussed at the December 20th meeting. A decision will be made at the meeting on January 17th.