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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017 3 years ago

School Board considers changing elementary school attendance zones

The district hopes to relieve overcrowding at two schools and make space for rising enrollment.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Old Kings Elementary School is overcrowded. It has 108 more students than it's supposed to. So is Belle Terre Elementary School, which is 42 students over capacity.

Meanwhile, the district's other three elementary schools are under capacity — in the case of Rymfire Elementary School, by 593 students. District officials might switch things around in an attendance rezoning, so that students who are now slated to go to those overcrowded schools would go to the ones that have more space instead. 

Instead of sending all children who live east of Interstate 95 to Old Kings as is currently the case, school district consultant Mike Judd said at a School Board workshop Jan. 17, some of the children from the Hammock and from Palm Coast's F-Section and C-Section could go to Wadsworth Elementary. 

Some students from parts of the B-Section and the area around Boulder Rock Drive who would have been slated to attend Belle Terre Elementary could be redirected to Wadsworth Elementary School. 

And the district might also build a new elementary school. 

"This would take a significant amount of students out of Old Kings, and would actually significantly shorten their bus times," School District Superintendent Jacob Oliva said at the Jan. 17 School Board workshop.

Judd said the proposed changes would shorten school bus commutes enough save the district about $100,000 a year in transportation costs.

Those major zoning changes, if the School Board approves them, won't happen next year. The district would have to get the proposed owning changes approved at the federal level, ensuring that the changes don't affect demographics in a way that would violate a 1974 desegregation order that the district is still under today. (The last time the district rezoned, in 2008, "almost any change we made was fine," Judd said.)

But in the short term, the district may make one change to help the two overcrowded schools: It may bar students who aren't zoned to attend those schools from going there under the district's school choice program.

The district, under its own policy, is supposed to be doing that already, School Board member Colleen Conklin said, "So we haven’t followed out own rule. We have not been telling people, 'No, we’re at capacity.'"

About 12% of district families have chosen to send their children to a school outside of their zone, Oliva said. 

For now, School Board Chairman Trevor Tucker said, enforcing that policy barring parents from sending their children to already-overcrowded schools in a different zone might help, but, "long-term, we know we need to rezone."

Conklin recommended the district look at converting its elementary and middle schools to K-8 schools, and consider rezoning — even though it would mean displacing some students.

"We have a large number of seats available in this district," she said. "If we’re going to have a discussion about rezoning, let’s have it. 




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