School Board delays rezoning
Published: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.
Alachua County School Board members have decided to shelve a controversial high school rezoning idea and instead have district staff work on a smaller-scale rezoning plan for the next school year.
The board met in an informal session Tuesday morning to hash over public reaction to the idea of rezoning attendance boundaries for high schools in and around Gainesville. The morning session began about 12 hours after a rancorous meeting Monday night during which public officials were called derogatory names and the motives of some school officials were questioned.
By midday Tuesday, Superintendent Dan Boyd said he understood that the board now wants the district staff to come up with a plan to relieve crowding in Newberry, possibly by shifting fifth-graders to a middle school before the next school year begins in August. Boyd's staff will also review the effect of ending attendance zone waivers for some schools.
The board also wants to hear proposals for duplicating or shifting some high school magnet programs - those without intensive equipment demands - between schools. Officials said it appears the county overall has 81 available seats in high schools.
Plans for housing developments to be built on the west side of the county could quickly see those seats filled. Board members and district officials agreed that they need to continue looking at high school enrollment patterns, perhaps for the 2009-10 school year.
Boyd told the board he and other staff members would come up with a plan later this week that would be ready for the board to formally consider during its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Among the dozens who spoke Monday night, many objected to altering attendance zones for Gainesville area high schools because they said that their children would be forced out of schools seen as neighborhood schools, that it would take longer for students to get to and from school and that there are wide variances in the quality of the education offered at each high school.
While there were about 300 people attending the Monday night session, Tuesday morning's meeting drew only a handful of district employees and a union official. Wes Eubank opened the morning session with an apology and a statement similar to statements made later by the four other board members.
"I apologize to the staff who got in the middle of an unpleasant situation," Eubank said. "I was looking for ideas. I have listened. Some of the things said re-affirmed my feeling and at this time I am opposed to rezoning."
Tina Pinkoson said the discord created by the rezoning concept made her feel physically ill.
"Over the three community input sessions, I left sick to my stomach," Pinkoson said. "A lot of the parents were misinformed and doing what they felt they needed to do to advocate for their child."
Ginger Childs told her fellow board members, "We have a problem that needs to be addressed and it would be irresponsible for us to postpone indefinitely our high school rezoning."
Eileen Roy encouraged the board to plan ahead, but take time to make sure the plans being made were the best possible for the district.
"I was kind of shocked we were deciding on a (rezoning) plan so quickly," Roy said. "It's too late and too quick for the 2008-2009 school year, but we do need to look at this closely."
Board Chairwoman Janie Williams cautioned against any plans that involve involuntarily busing students to schools relatively far from their homes.
Karen Voyles can be reached at 352-359-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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