By LINDA CHION KENNEY
In voting to consider yet another option for redrawing Barrington Middle School attendance boundaries, Hillsborough County school board members asked school officials to review changes that would affect Riverview’s Panther Trace subdivision and an area north of the Alafia River within the Rodgers Middle School boundary.
A community meeting to discuss the measure was set to be held Wednesday, Feb. 12, 6 to 7 p.m., at Barrington Middle School in FishHawk, at 5925 Village Center Drive, Lithia.
Board members are scheduled to hold a first reading on the updated proposed boundary changes at its Feb. 18 meeting, followed by a second reading set for March 10. Start time for both meetings is 4 p.m.
School officials say boundary changes are necessary, with Barrington at 109 percent of its enrollment capacity, not counting the handful of portable classrooms in use on campus grounds. Without boundary changes, the school is expected to be at 130 percent of capacity in one-to-three years, factoring in new housing construction. In contrast, current and future capacities at Rodgers Middle School are 67 and 83 percent, respectively. At Giunta, the numbers are 51 and 55 percent.
When the matter first came up for discussion, there was a proposal featuring “eight pods,” representing eight attendance areas that involved six schools and the shuffling of 1,403 students. Schools affected were Barrington, Giunta, Mann, Mulrennan, Randall and Rodgers.
Parents unhappy with this so-called “original proposal” pushed for a “revised proposal,” which was heard at the Feb. 4 meeting. This measure involved moving 223 students from Barrington to Rodgers, affecting, for the most part, the Riverglen, Countryside Village, Bell Creek Hammocks north and Boyette Springs communities to the west.
Under consideration now are three measures: the revised proposal (Scenario A) and two additional proposals.
Scenario C reassigns a smaller area of Panther Trace to Barrington, while keeping in tact, as well, the revised proposal.
Scenario B reassigns Panther Trace students from Rodgers to Barrington, while reassigning the area north of the Alafia River, within the Rodgers boundary, to Giunta.
Board members asked school officials at the Feb. 4 meeting to study and propose additional scenarios after hearing public comments from seven speakers and comments from the school board chair, Melissa Snively, who made the motion for reconsideration, in part, to keep a group of students who live close enough to Barrington to walk or ride their bicycles to school from being reassigned.
(It was later noted that a safety analysis would be required to determine if transportation services would be required.)
“As you know, attendance boundary changes can be difficult for many families, and it’s challenging to satisfy all families impacted by the change,” Snively said, noting school officials studied all proposals and lots of community feedback. “I understand that most, that many parents were in favor of the first proposal, which would have moved about 400 students out of [Barrington],” she said. “But that would also create a huge ripple effect, [which] would have affected about 1,400 students.”
Because of its proximity to Rodgers, Snively asked Amber Dickerson, the school district’s department manager for planning and siting schools, to discuss splitting Panther Trace to relieve overcrowding now, recognizing that the area would be served by a new middle school in two years.
No middle school is yet under construction.
“Originally, our vision for Panther Trace would be to wait until the [new school] comes online, just because of where Panther Trace is located,” Dickerson said. “Breaking up neighborhoods, we try to avoid that at all cost.”
She also noted that no Panther Trace families assigned now to Barrington opt to send their children to Rodgers, “so I’m sure that would be met with opposition as well.”
As noted, a public meeting to discuss the issue was to be held Feb. 12 at Barrington Middle School. (This could not be covered in time for the Observer News publication deadline).
School board attorney Jim Porter noted at the Feb. 4 meeting that boundary changes must be based on data and supportable evidence.
School Board member Stacy Hahn said she believed school officials drew their maps “with a great deal of thought, data and input.”
“I’m hesitant to say all the data [they] used is wrong,” she added. “I don’t know if you’d be [restarting the process] so you get the outcome you want or [restarting] it because there is a better solution.”
Meanwhile, four speakers at the Feb. 4 meeting spoke in favor of the revised proposal affecting 223 students; three speakers said the proposal was inadequate; and most speakers noted they were in favor of raising impact fees for new school construction.
To view the school board meeting and review the transcript, visit http://schoolboard.hcpswebcasts.com and click the date, Feb. 4.
To view proposed and recently changed boundary proposals, visit: https://sdhc.k12.fl.us/doc/251.
For more information, call Hillsborough county schools at 813-272-4000.