Three Pasco County schools to shut down by 2021 due to low enrollment

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Some parents are upset after Pasco County school officials announced plans this week to close three of its elementary school by 2021. The district cites low enrollments as one of the reasons for the closures.

Capacity at the three schools are roughly  60 to 70 percent and the superintendent argues keeping them open is a waste of money, but some parents don't see it that way. They say the community has a vested interest in the schools and closing them wouldn't be in the best interest of their child.

"I just don't see how uprooting children when there's other solutions is the right thing to do," said Savannah Harris, a parent. 

The Pasco County School District said they will Hudson Elementary, Locke Elementary and Lacoochee Elementary, where Harris' daughter is a second grader. She said the community and students simply don't want to see it go.

"A lot of their parents and grandparents have went to this school," Harris explained. "It means something to them. They're a part of something and my concern is the long-term effect on the social and emotional aspect and how the community is going to be affected."

"I don't like the idea of closing schools," said Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning said. "I understand what it does to families. I understand what it does to students. I understand what it does to teachers. Communities. I get that, but I also have a responsibility as a superintendent that the resources we've been entrusted with are best being utilized."

The schools don't operate at full capacity, the superintendent explained, and worried because of that the state won't approve the district to establish a new K-thru-8 school they're already on track to build.

"We run the risk of not being approved to open that because they will look at capacity of those schools and they'll say 'you've got plenty of capacity at those schools," Browning said. "'So you cannot build you're K-8'. We've got to build this K-8."

Harris is hoping the district reconsiders closing Lacoochee Elementary and instead works to recruit students or turn the school into a STEM school.

"It's already had enough getting people to come into that community," Harris said. "And improving that community. Taking the school, I feel like ruins the chances of that community ever growing or prospering again."

So far, a final decision to close the schools has not yet been made. It will require a vote by the school board, which is set to happen at an upcoming meeting.

As for the parents at Lacoochee Elementary, which is set to close in May, they'll get the chance to voice their concerns at meeting Thursday, November 7th at 5:30 p.m. in the school's cafeteria.