NAPLES — January brings a new year and possibly a new school for some Collier County students.
Letters recently were sent home with all Collier County elementary, middle and high school students regarding the rezoning of schools. The letter included the dates of several scheduled rezoning meetings — four in the Naples area and one in Immokalee — to be held next month.
All meetings will begin at 6 p.m. on the following dates and locations:
Two parent meetings for students attending elementary schools in the Naples area:
• Wednesday, Jan. 6, in the Golden Gate High School auditorium, 2925 Titan Lane.
• Tuesday, Jan. 19, in the School Board meeting room of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail.
A meeting for parents of students attending Immokalee elementary schools:
• Tuesday, Jan. 12, in the Eden Park Elementary School cafeteria, 3650 Westclox St.
A meeting for parents of students being rezoned to Lely or Naples high schools:
• Thursday, Jan. 7, in the Lely High School auditorium, 1 Lely High School Blvd.
A meeting for parents of students being rezoned to Golden Gate High School:
• Wednesday, Jan. 13, in the Golden Gate High School auditorium, 2925 Titan Lane.
The only students who will be exempt from any rezoning are current high school juniors, Collier school district officials said.
School Board policy allows incoming seniors affected by rezoning to stay at their old school.
Collier schools Superintendent Dennis Thompson said the meetings will be an opportunity for the district to present its plans and explain why certain areas will be rezoned. He said it also will give parents the opportunity to ask questions and challenge rezonings they don’t feel are appropriate - from a logical point.
“We know this is an emotional issue,” Thompson said. “We don’t want to hear ‘We don’t want this because we want to stay at our home school.’ ”
Thompson said whatever the state Legislature might decide on required class-sizes, the rezoning will go forward.
“A decision has to be made in February for scheduling and staffing,” he said.
But several parents already have come before the Collier County School Board upset about the possibility of rezoning.
Cheryl Brock and Sheri Barnett argued that their children were thriving at Gulf Coast High School. They said their students were involved in Advanced Placement classes and held positions in the band and in the Laureate program. They urged the board to consider rezoning Gulf Coast students to Golden Gate High School starting with the freshman class of 2010.
“Our kids are up in the air and disrupted until we find out if they will be rezoned or not,” Brock said. “My son is in the band and they are planning a trip to California. Do I tell him to still plan for it?”
District officials have said they will do everything to ensure the students will have the same opportunities at whatever high school they attend. The district is also considering asking its after-school child-care providers to stay later to accommodate rezoned students.
“There is a lack of child care facilities in the Estates. I am empathetic,” Thompson said. “A parent’s best option might be to utilize our before- and after-school programs. I know one school is considering extending its after-school program from 6 (p.m.) to 6:30 (p.m.) to accommodate parents’ work schedules.”
The Collier County School Board recently voted 4-1 to rezone Naples elementary and high schools. Board member Pat Carroll dissented.
The board also voted unanimously to use a combination of rezoning and portables in Immokalee to accommodate overcrowding there.
However, the School Board decided to keep the school-choice and out-of-zone policies for students as they are. That means a student can go to a school other than the one they are zoned for if they present a valid reason, such as child-care issues at the elementary level or because they attend an academy at one of the high schools.
The district’s middle schools aren’t included in rezoning plans because they have enough space to meet the class-size requirements.
The district is rezoning the schools to meet the requirements of the class-size amendment, which Florida voters passed in 2002. The amendment requires school districts to hold core classes like English and math to 18, 22 or 25 students, depending on the students’ age.
To meet the requirements, Collier schools will need to add approximately 240 classes. Some schools have enough vacant classrooms and others don’t. As a result, the board decided last week to rezone students from schools with insufficient space to schools with unused classroom space.
Maps showing the proposed areas to be rezoned will be available at the district’s Web site, www.collierschools.com, as soon as they are completed during the holiday break.
The maps will be available at all schools on Jan. 5. The maps will give parents a clear picture of which schools will need to be rezoned and the areas proposed to be rezoned.
To learn more, call the district’s Communication & Information Office at (239) 377-0180, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.