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School Board Votes Down Zoning Plan For 2024-2025 School Year

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On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Hernando County School Board met for their bi-weekly regular meeting. They spent the lengthy forum deciding on a litany of topics, which included the approval or rejection of the new school zoning plan for the 2024-2025 school year, effective July 1, 2024. This proposal was based on a trio of workshops held by the District Rezoning Committee earlier this year. The committee consisted of various parents, community advocates, business leaders, retired educators, district staff, and school administrators.

The result of Tuesday’s vote was a 4-1 decision against adopting changes for the upcoming academic year. Board Member Susan Duval was the lone vote casting her support for the plan. The result is that the current school attendance boundaries will remain unchanged, thus preserving Nature Coast’s magnet status in addition to other schools like Chocachatti which had already been addressed at prior meetings.

Superintendent Stratton, the board, and others will be working in earnest on a plan that will expand the current schools where necessary and where possible. The superintendent discussed how there have already been talks addressing these issues, such as building additional classrooms at schools that are already overcrowded. Superintendent Stratton acknowledged and praised the rezoning committee’s multi-month endeavor for creating a practical rezoning plan, but the question of Nature Coast and other concerns covered in the Sun’s earlier editions doomed the proposal.

“Rezoning is a complicated undertaking that impacts everyone in our community,” said Stratton in a release by Karen Jordan, Director of Communications of the Hernando County School District. ”Each member accepted our invitation to be part of this difficult work and we are grateful for their collaboration and care as they took on this challenge.”

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The key was to not “kick the can down the road,” the board’s leader cautioned before Tuesday’s vote, but there were some reasons that necessitated the board’s decision. The board members had questions that the committee had not been able to answer and were reminded by concerned parent Ron Carpenter during the meeting of the plethora of correspondences the board has received over recent months from other disgruntled parents.

“The people that have elected you have spoken very loudly on this matter,” Carpenter said. “No one is arguing for this proposal as it is. Hundreds if not thousands of letters, calls, and emails have come into you guys saying they don’t want [Nature Coast Tech] to be fundamentally changed. They are consistently the best-graded high school in the county with the highest graduation rates. We don’t want it changed and the hundreds of parents that applied to NCT through the lottery don’t want it changed either.”

The population of the county is projected to balloon in the coming years, with new lagoon communities and housing developments cropping up, so action will need to be taken soon to account for growth. Amanda Braswell, who has a pair of children who attend Chocachatti Elementary, feels something more permanent than portables will be needed to accommodate the booming number of citizens in the districts.

“With all the development that is going on in Hernando County, they can’t sustain the new growth with the current amount of schools that they have whether they bring back portables temporarily,” Braswell said. “Right now, they are approving so many new developments – the county planning is – that they need to take a look now and start acquiring the property and building these schools now before all these houses are built.”

She was pleased the proposal was struck down, but Braswell hopes the board evaluates where schools are needed most, considering roughly 1,700 acres of land are being developed for a local lagoon community. She questioned where those children would go to school. The board is looking into a variety of avenues, including expansions and other measures, with the construction of brand-new schools seemingly not far behind.

“I think it is a good move because I think they were rushing into rezoning, especially some of the schools,” said Braswell. “So, I think it is a good move to postpone it, but I really hope that they do their due diligence in expanding our school footprint now.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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