Parents object at rezoning meeting


Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.

Passionate parents decried proposed changes in the Alachua County school zones at a public input session Monday night at Kanapaha Middle School.

Superintendent Dan Boyd began the meeting, attended by more than 300 people, by outlining the need for alterations in school attendance zones. He cited school overcrowding and socioeconomic diversity.

"I'm concerned about the diversity in the high schools in Gainesville," Boyd said.

That comment was met with boos, and someone yelled: "You're an ignorant fool."

But Boyd continued: "I am too old to beat around the bush. I have a strong feeling about balancing diversity in the school district."

School Board member Tina Pinkoson then asked the public to keep things civil and polite.

Of the more than 60 people who spoke, the most commonly stated objections to altering the attendance zones for five different geographic areas were the loss of neighborhood schools, the increased travel time and busing distance, and the variance in education quality at different schools.

At times the speakers criticized the plan's motivation as a way to create diversity, telling Boyd not to make their students part of a social experiment.

Buchholz High School has 19 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunches; Eastside High School has 43 percent; Gainesville High School has 32 percent.

One of the proposed changes that school officials said was for specifically balancing socioeconomic diversity would transfer 113 students from Eastside High School to Buchholz from the area south of Archer Road and north of Williston Road with Interstate 75 on the west. Some of the other changes for dealing with overcrowding also would balance diversity.

Greg Bradley stood in line to address a comment that had been made calling Eastside High School a war zone.

"I was coming tonight as an observer but I would be remiss not to say something," said Bradley, whose children are very young and who doesn't live in an area that will be affected.

"That is a comment that is rooted in fear and ignorance," Bradley said. "I wonder if the gentleman has ever even been to Eastside."

School Board member Janie Williams left the meeting very upset.

"Racism is alive and well in Alachua County," Williams said.

Pinkoson said she was offended by suggestions that the board should spend less time considering zoning options and more time trying to assist the lower performing students.

"To think that this board doesn't address those issues is ludicrous," Pinkoson said.

"Because we have elementary level schools that are neighborhood schools, some schools are disproportionately minority or low socioeconomics," she said. "Where our children socialize with people from other areas or ways of life are in our middle schools and our high schools."

Megan Rolland can be reached at 338-3104 or megan.rolland@ gvillesun.com.

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