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    Walsingham school plan unchanged

    The superintendent rethinks some of his zoning proposals, but not for Walsingham Elementary.


    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 22, 2001

    LARGO -- Sawgrass Lake Elementary School families got good news Wednesday. Walsingham Elementary families did not.

    On Wednesday, Superintendent Howard Hinesley released his final school zoning recommendations for 2001-2002. The School Board will vote on the recommendations Tuesday, after a 7 p.m. public hearing at 301 Fourth St. SW in Largo.

    Hinesley previously recommended that 125 students transfer from Sawgrass Lake in St. Petersburg to High Point Elementary School in Clearwater to ease overcrowding. Now, after hearing from a couple of parents, Hinesley wants those Sawgrass Lake students to have a choice whether to stay put or change schools.

    Though Sawgrass Lake would not have to lose any students, Hinesley still wants the school to take 250 more students from several other schools. That means Sawgrass Lake would continue to be crowded.

    Hinesley also responded to complaints from Skycrest Elementary parents who wanted their children to stay there. Under his reworked plan, the school would not lose any students but would add 100 students from Belcher Elementary.

    But some Walsingham Elementary parents weren't so lucky.

    Dozens of those parents have waged an organized battle against Hinesley's recommendation that about 100 students be transferred to Campbell Park Elementary School in St. Petersburg. But he is sticking with that plan for now.

    Walsingham parent Carol Holland, whose daughter is among those recommended to attend Campbell Park, said 51 parents have decided to send their children to private school. She said up to a dozen more are thinking about home-schooling their children.

    "It really doesn't matter what they decide," Holland said. "We're not going."

    Hinesley said he is still considering the Walsingham parents' requests. But he is expected to continue to recommend that those students move.

    The school district is still under a federal court order requiring that some white students be bused to southern Pinellas schools to meet race ratios.

    District officials have said they were able to be more flexible with Sawgrass Elementary because the issue was overcrowding, not race ratios. But allowing students to stay at Sawgrass could affect ratios at High Point.

    High Point slightly exceeds the court-ordered cap on black student enrollment now. If that continues next year, the School Board will have to consider moving in white students or moving out black students, pupil assignment director Marlene Mueller said.

    Hinesley is recommending that 2,657 students transfer to new schools this fall. The district recommends zoning changes every two years as part of a court-ordered requirement that schools be desegregated. The district recently settled the lawsuit that led to race ratios, so this is the last time the School Board has to force white pupils to leave their neighborhoods.

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