School choice for 2018-19 is in full swing, and district officials said they’ve been pleased with the interest they’ve seen so far.
The window for applying to the district’s magnet schools closed Jan. 12, except for applications for the new Wendell Krinn Technical High School, which remain open through early February.
The School Board hopes to fill the technical high school with about 600 students. Through the first week of applications, it received 446 submissions, district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.
Superintendent Kurt Browning said he expected early numbers to be strong, as students with a clear interest in the new program stake their claim to a spot. He anticipated numbers might slow down for a while, and then pick up again toward the end of the application period as people who need more time to decide make up their minds.
"We’re going to keep notifying parents that the period is open," Browning said.
Representatives from the school continued to visit schools and will hold parent meetings to explain the new model.
The time to apply for the technical high school overlaps with the district’s open enrollment period, which starts Feb. 1. Officials said they want to be sure students get as many opportunities as possible to seek the school of their choice, even if they do not get into the technical school.
Deadline approaches after rezoning decision
Families affected by the county court’s recent decision voiding the board’s 2017 rezoning of some Mitchell High and Seven Springs Middle students have until the end of Friday, Jan. 19, to tell the district where they want their children to complete the school year.
Superintendent Kurt Browning invoked the district’s student assignment policy, which gives him the right to assign students mid-year to avoid disrupting their education.
He said the ruling could mean that students who moved schools because of the rezoning no longer are in the proper school.
He gave families two weeks to decide if they want to stay at the schools where they started this school year or go back to the schools they were zoned to previously. Those who don’t respond will be considered to have agreed to stay put.
Browning said he did not intend to revoke or reconsider school choice decisions made as a result of the rezoning. He added that students might find themselves moved again in 2018-19, as he plans to have a new rezoning process for west side high schools.
The families whose rezoning was voided in court could see themselves sent back to River Ridge, Browning said, and even more might be affected.
"The district will commence west-side boundary rezoning using our new process for the upcoming school year," he said.
Third candidate files for District 5 seat
Shortly after Pasco County School Board member Steve Luikart announced he wouldn’t seek a third term, Port Richey lawyer and mom Tara M. O’Connor placed her name on the candidate list to replace him.
She is the third hopeful to pre-file paperwork to seek the District 5 seat, representing northwest Pasco on the five-person board.
"I’ve lived in Pasco since 1985," she said. "I’m a product of District 5 schools. … My kids are products of District 5 schools."
She’s been active as a school advisory committee member, Take Stock in Children mentor and in several other activities. With her youngest child graduated from Fivay High, she said she has the time to serve on the School Board.
"There is no greater time spent than on children," O’Connor said.
She said she did not have any particular issue, such as special education or class size, that drives her candidacy. Her motivation is to "be a catalyst" for parents, students and employees who often cannot get information they need to succeed in the system.
Last year, her family experienced some angst with the district’s high school class ranking model, she said, because some officials misinterpreted the rules and gave incorrect information to her son.
O’Connor said she often helps others trying to get to the bottom of situations, serves as a sounding board and offers guidance.
"The School Board seems like a natural transition," she said. "It’s time to give back to the community."
Hudson Middle School teacher Mike Aday and law student Kassie Hutchinson also are seeking the District 5 seat. Official qualifying comes in June, and the election is Aug. 28.
Contact Jeffrey S. Solochek at (813) 909-4614 or [email protected] Follow @jeffsolochek.