NAPLES — The first day at a new school can be exciting.
It can also be a little terrifying.
In the Golden Gate Elementary School media center, the principal and other administrators were very excited about the prospect of new students.
Some of the parents were in tears.
Golden Gate Elementary School extended an olive branch to parents of Logan Woods students, who could be rezoned to the school next year. The Friday morning get together allowed administrators to answer questions and gave the five parents who accepted the invitation an opportunity to see the school.
Principal Marilou Andrews said she hoped the meeting dispelled a lot of fears, although she admitted it was hard to see some of the parents in tears when they thought about their children coming to Golden Gate Elementary.
“We wanted to explain what was going on now. I think they understand it is different than the perception of what they thought it was,” she said. “We need people to know this is a nice place and there are a lot of good things that are happening here.”
Some of the parents walked away with that perception.
Others will try to find a way for their children to stay at their current schools.
The Collier County School District has seen its out-of-zone requests increase this year by 450 students to 1,768.
Students must have their requests approved by the district in order to go to a different school than the one they are zoned for.
The district attributes the increase to the rezoning proposal.
The district plans to rezone nearly 1,800 high school and elementary school students to comply with the class size amendment, which voters passed in 2002 and which must be implemented by the beginning of the 2010-11 school year.
Of the out-of-zone requests, 86 are from rising juniors and seniors, who will be allowed to stay at their current school, according to district figures.
Students fill out an out-of-zone request if they have a reason to go to another school, such as a day care issue or if a high school students wants to attend an academy at a high school.
The district has seen its school choice requests decrease by 202. Students who don’t have a reason but want to go to another school fill out a choice requests.
How many of the remaining requests will be filled is not clear.
District Spokeswoman Leanne Zinser wrote in an e-mail that additional information on the process will be released after the Collier County School Board decides how to rezone schools at its Feb. 18 meeting.
After the meeting, a determination on seat availability will be made and out-of-zone applications will be reviewed.
Kevin Stockman, who oversees the district’s choice and out-of-zone program, said the priority period for choice and out-of-zone requests closed Jan. 30.
Out-of-zone requests will be addressed first, Stockman said. After the placement of the approved out-of-zone requests, if seats are still available, a lottery will be held for all new choice applicants who have submitted applications during the priority period, Stockman said.
“After the lottery, if there are still seats available, students from the pool (who submitted applications after Jan. 30) will be placed in the order their applications were received until all seats are filled. Applications will continue to be accepted until June 30,” Stockman wrote in an e-mail.
Stockman said the district does not anticipate any changes to the process.
Some of the out-of-zone and choice requests may be withdrawn if the School Board decides not to rezone elementary schools.
Collier Superintendent Dennis Thompson plans to ask the School Board to delay any elementary school rezoning until April.
Thompson came to the decision, he said, after receiving information from School Board lobbyist Vern Crawford and Florida Association of School Administrators Executive Director Jim Warford that a proposed bill to change the class size amendment was gaining traction in Tallahassee.
“They feel strongly that there is a move to get something out of the Legislature onto the ballot,” he said. “I think we can give it two months to see if they can make it come to fruition.”
Even with the bill, the district plans to rezone its high schools, Thompson has said.
Parent Sarah Mentillo said after Friday’s meeting at Golden Gate Elementary that it wouldn’t be so bad if her son was rezoned.
“My son could really like it here. I think it is great that the fifth-graders all have laptops,” Mentillo said, referring to a school program that allows each fifth-grade student to have his or her own laptop. “And it is nice to know they focus work in the arts.”
The board will vote on the proposed changes to the district’s zones at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail.