Rising juniors at Collier’s high schools may get rezoned after all

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Rezoning meeting at Golden Gate High School

Parents discontent over rezoning

Collier County parents gather with members of ...

— Rising juniors hoping to avoid being rezoned shouldn’t celebrate yet.

Although the Collier County School Board unanimously agreed to allow current sophomores who could be rezoned to stay at their current schools next year with the promise that the issue would be on the table at the next school board meeting, that provision is left off Thursday’s meeting agenda.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t be discussed, said Board Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo.

“The grandfathering issue will come up when we discuss the high school rezoning,” she said. “It can become part of the motion. We will look at the policy and change the policy to grandfather those juniors.”

The second and final reading of the rezoning proposal is Thursday. If the School Board allows juniors to be exempt from rezoning, it can approve that change at Thursday’s meeting. However, the board would also have to change it’s policy on rezoning to reflect that change. That would also take two readings, which could be done during the March and April meetings.

In January’s meeting minutes, which are to be approved by the Board on Thursday, School Board attorney Jon Fishbane “suggested revising the policy and holding two readings of the proposed revision with the first reading in February and the second reading in March. He also stated that the proposed revision could be made retroactive back to January.”

The Collier County School Board’s current policy allows rising seniors to stay at their current school in the event of rezoning. Board member Steve Donovan proposed at the board’s January meeting that the board consider grandfathering in the rising juniors, which had been done in 2004 when Palmetto Ridge High School opened. Chief Operations Officer Michele LaBute said about 180 students would be affected if every junior and senior currently at Gulf Coast high School decided to stay.

The board unanimously supported his suggestion.

Leaving the grandfathering provision off of this month’s agenda concerned Sheri Barnett, whose daughter is a current sophomore attending Gulf Coast High School. Barnett contacted Curatolo after the agenda was published to ensure the issue would not go away.

“I am concerned that if I had not caught it that it would have gone away. I think that Kathy will stand by her word and, as she forwarded the e-mail to Mr. Thompson, it is now public record. But I do not trust the administration,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I think the Administration might turn around and state that now it is too late because the schools have to hire teachers and classes will be set. It will make it harder for students to get their needed classes the longer it is delayed. As it stands, it would not be completed until after their meeting at the end of April unless the other board members can get it put back on the agenda.”

But Curatolo said if the Board builds the grandfathering into the rezoning motion on Thursday, it will have made the decision to grandfather the juniors and seniors. The policy change, she said, will just reflect that decision.

“The fact that the policy has not been changed is a moot point,” she said, adding that the board’s vote on Thursday will determine where students will register for classes. Counselors begin working on high school schedules in March.

The Collier County School Board is set to discuss the rezoning issue at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Drive.

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