Roughly five months ago, the Hernando County School Board met with a plan for redistricting the zones of various schools around the county. A committee was formed to help analyze the data and recommend a plan of action for the 2024-2025 school year. Throughout the year, three community forums were held to present the committee’s tentative plans and gauge public opinion on the matter. On Oct. 10, the school board held a workshop to discuss their findings and reach a consensus. After the recommended plan was presented, the board ultimately decided not to add a partial zone to Chocachatti Elementary School.
“The overarching goal, of course, is to balance enrollment at our schools with capacity with particular focus on where we’re seeing areas of high growth…” said committee member Jim Lipsey, Manager of Planning Construction and Design. “Keeping in mind, too, that our effort here really was to maximize the utilization of our capacity in all of our schools before we spend the capital dollars on building.”
The final agenda item they addressed was school rezoning, which included the hotly contested Chocachatti issue, but there was more to the conversation. The topic was split into four subsections: expansion at existing schools, grandfathering in students, transportation, and the addition of a partial zone to Chocachatti.
Regarding expansion, the committee recommended measures such as investing in Weeki Wachee High School ($30 million), Hernando ($12 million), Central or Nature Coast ($15 million), Winding Waters K-8 ($12 million), and Eastside Elementary School ($11 million). A new school in the Ridge Manor area was also recommended to be constructed within the next ten years. The board members reached a consensus to adopt the committee’s plan for expansion.
Next was grandfathering in students in their final years at their respective schools before rezoning takes effect. This means that students going into the fifth grade would be allowed to remain at their elementary schools until their graduation from the academic institution. This would also apply to those graduating from middle and high schools that are to be affected by the rezoning efforts. The motion passed quickly with a consensus.
The discussion on transportation was regarding the grandfathered students. The proposal was that these students would need to provide their own transportation to the school that they are grandfathered into. There was much back-and-forth on this subject, with a committee member explaining that many of the students in their final years at high school already drive. While this mitigated the issue to a degree, not all board members were satisfied. Board Member Mark Johnson requested the exact number of 12th graders that were impacted by the change in zones be presented to the board at the School Board Informal Meeting on Oct. 24. Otherwise, the board reached a consensus on the recommendation for transportation of the rezoned students.
The biggest issue was saved for last. Board Member Susan Duval pointed to Chocachatti’s 78 percent capacity as the reason for adding the partial zone, but it was pointed out that this percentage is to provide the extra room necessary for the school’s micro societal systems. A consensus was eventually reached by the school board to not change or add a zone to Chocachatti Elementary. The caveat for this is that students from overcrowded schools would be given priority in the lottery admissions process. Amanda Braswell, the mother of two students at Chocachatti, commented on what this decision means for the elementary school.
“With the school not being zoned, it allows them to maintain that center of excellence basically,” Braswell said. “It’s not limiting the magnet program to only a select few kids. It kind of goes back to that whole thing. You can’t zone these kids into a school and expect them to have the same grades and commitments as you do the kids that get in through the lottery. You can’t zone that commitment into that school. It would fail.”
To view the proposed maps go to: