School Board settles on new zones, name for new elementary school

Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 11:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 11:14 p.m.

The elementary school zoning lines have moved, and the school that will shift students around northwest Gainesville now might have a name.

During a School Board zoning workshop Tuesday, Alachua County Public Schools officials showed a new elementary zoning map, a result of several public meetings and the wishes expressed by many residents.

And after months of calling the construction site on Northwest 39th Street west of Interstate 75 "Elementary School H," Deputy Superintendent Sandy Hollinger proposed a new name: Meadowbrook Elementary School.

The School Board will vote on the zone map and the school name and will select the new principal during a Jan. 17 meeting. A final vote on the map is scheduled for Feb. 21.

The new map changes the western boundary from County Road 241. Steven Stark, director of zoning, research and assessment, said the map was changed to include in the new school zone any neighborhood along CR 241.

Those include the Belmont, Caraway and Steeplechase subdivisions. Children in those neighborhoods currently are zoned for rural schools such as Newberry and Irby. Residents complained of hour-long bus rides despite their children being closer to the new school.

Changing the zoning map created new problems, Stark said.

"We have to make an adjustment to bring it back down a little bit," he said.

Several neighborhoods that were zoned for the new school were dropped out, Stark said. Those include Timberway and Buckridge, which will remain zoned for Glen Springs. A small neighborhood directly east of Buchholz High School will remain zoned for Littlewood Elementary.

"It balances it back out, and in Elementary School H, it's a wash," Stark said.

The zoning changes have slight effects on other schools, officials said.

Under the original plan, Glen Springs would have lost about 50 students to decrease from 97 percent capacity to 85 percent. The revised map puts back 26 students, leaving the school capacity at 91 percent.

School district policy states that any school at 90 percent capacity or above is considered crowded and not eligible for students to attend as part of school choice.

Officials also tinkered with zoning lines for Talbot and Norton schools. Northwood Oaks and Northwood Pines would be zoned to Norton, while Pine Ridge Apartments would be zoned to Talbot.

Some School Board members still expressed concerns, pointing to the percentage of low-income students at some schools.

Eileen Roy echoed concerns she had voiced in previous workshops.

"I appreciate your being able to accommodate all these people who came to the input sessions, but still we have 78 percent free- and reduced-lunch (eligible students) at Terwilliger, and schools that abut it still have very low SES rates," she said.

Hidden Oak would enroll 177 students that are considered low-income, about 28 percent of its school population, according to district data.

Hollinger said the district hoped to get extra federal money to hire additional teachers and paraprofessionals.

School Board members said they were generally pleased with the results of the zoning map.

Vice Chair Carol Oyenarte said she was most impressed that staff listened to families.

"They truly listened as these people poured their hearts out," she said. "I was just impressed with how the whole system worked. This was almost seamless."

Construction of the new school is ahead of schedule by several weeks, facilities director Ed Gable said. The retention pond and retaining walls are complete, and nearly all the windows are in place, he said. Gable said he anticipated the building being finished by July.

Hollinger said she could tell the immense pride the contractors and subcontractors had in the new building.

"It's an amazing school," she said.

Hollinger as well as two other senior administration officials weeded through dozens of names for the new school. The three whittled it down from Tim Tebow Elementary and Haven to its recommended name: Meadowbrook.

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