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School redistricting can involve your view

By Times editorial
Published January 31, 2007


When it comes to unpleasant-but-necessary undertakings, redrawing school attendance zones ranks up there with root canals and painting your house. The main difference is that when the fresh paint dries and you flash your smile, you're usually happy with the outcome.

That is seldom the case with the unpopular and difficult chore of rearranging boundaries - and routines - for thousands of students and parents in Hernando County public schools. It is one of the School Board's most dreaded tasks, guaranteed to draw criticism from those who, sometimes with good reason, are reluctant to change.

But in a county where student enrollment is growing proportionately with the increases in population, rezoning is unavoidable. As new schools are built to relieve crowded conditions at existing ones, it is necessary to redistribute the supplies and demands.

A committee of residents and school administrators began that arduous process at a meeting Monday night, the first of many that will occur before public hearings are held and the School Board makes a decision late this year.

The committee will study bus routes, review population projections and solicit ideas at schools as it carries out an underappreciated and thorny assignment. A $62,000 computer software program purchased in 2003 will assist in that effort.

Even though it is inevitable that this process will be repeated in a few years when a new high school opens, the decisions the committee makes now can make the next round of redistricting less painful, especially for middle and elementary schools.

The approach is uncomplicated: Think in the long term and resist the temptation to adopt quick-fix solutions that do more to quiet critics today than to provide a vision for tomorrow.

In the past, rezoning efforts have been dominated by a desire to displace as few students as possible. While that may be the path of least resistance, it also leads to problems because it makes the job more difficult the next time around. It also is unfair to parents and students who, because of a shortsighted decision now, may face an additional, and avoidable, transfer a few years from now.

To do its best work, the committee needs help. Parents and students who have suggestions, or just wish to offer opinions, about the boundaries should get involved. The next meeting will be Feb. 26 at 4:30 p.m. The location has not been announced, but notice will be given.

Now is the time to speak up, not after the committee submits its recommendations to the School Board and a final decision is at hand.

[Last modified January 30, 2007, 22:50:24]

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