NAPLES — Some parents and students hoping to get the Collier County School Board to change its mind on rezoning got what they wanted.
Others got changes, but not those that they wanted.
The Collier County School District and the School Board had a change of heart about some of its proposed rezonings Thursday evening.
Superintendent Dennis Thompson recommended that the board not rezone the Berkshire Lakes and Glen Eagle area into Lely High School, keeping them at Naples High School.
That sat well with Berkshire Lakes parents who attended the committee, but the School Board disagreed. The disagreement was championed by board member Pat Carroll, who represents the Lely area, and who said that with the revised proposal, Lely would lose more than 100 students, which would make the school much smaller than the other county high schools.
She said rezoning the Berkshire and Glen Eagle students into Lely would make the school’s population more equitable.
Kristal Snider, who lives in the neighborhood, begged the board to reconsider, saying they were considering the rezoning to make Lely more equitable, not to comply with the class size amendment, which was the reason for rezoning in the first place.
“You have the opportunity to spare 150 kids from being uprooted,” she said.
Thompson also recommended that students in the Logan Woods area be rezoned from Osceola Elementary School to Golden Gate Elementary School and from Gulf Coast High School to Golden Gate High School. The move would allow the Logan Woods students to stay with their peers who will be going to Oakridge Middle School to Golden Gate High School, rather than attend Naples High School.
The School Board agreed that rising juniors should also be grandfathered with the rising seniors and should be allowed to stay at their current school if they can provide transportation to the school.
There were mixed reactions from the more than 100 people who attended Thursday’s first reading of the rezoning proposal, many dressed red to signify their anger over the district’s decision to rezone their children.
The district is proposing to rezone about 1,800 elementary and high school students to comply with the class size amendment. The amendment, which was passed by Florida voters in 2002, limits class sizes in core classes like English and math to 18, 22 or 25 students, depending on the age of the child. The state requires all schools to comply with the class size amendment by the start of the 2010 school year.
Middle schools are not being rezoned because they can accommodate the extra teachers and class rooms needed to comply with the amendment.
Thursday’s meeting was the first opportunity the board had to listen to the rezoning proposal and get reaction from community members, most of whom were there to argue against rezoning.
But not all. Brandy Otero, the parent of a Golden Gate High School freshman, urged the board to move forward with the rezoning.
She said taxpayers would not support adding portables to schools at an additional cost.
“It is very disheartening when adults condemn children and schools,” she said. “You will create a divide.”
Otero, who said her son is in honors classes at Golden Gate, said the rezoning would make the schools more equitable.
“All students in Collier County deserve an equal opportunity to learn,” she said. “And if Golden Gate and Lely offer an inferior education to Barron, Gulf Coast and Naples, you have a bigger problem than rezoning.”
Gulf Coast High School sophomore Haylee Lamb started confident, but as she looked at her friends during a rezoning meeting Thursday night, she fell into tears.
“I don’t want to leave my friends,” she said. “These are people’s lives you are changing. This is a huge part of my life. High school is such a huge part of my life. I shouldn’t have to go to a school where I don’t feel comfortable.”
But Haylee might get her wish. Board member Steve Donovan said he believed the district should make an exception for current sophomores to be grandfathered to their current school if they can provide their own transportation.
“We have done it once already, when we opened Palmetto Ridge. It is one year. I think we should allow the kids to finish up and move forward with the rezoning,” he said.
Carroll agreed, saying junior year is an important year.
“I think we should consider the rising juniors and seniors because of the late notice,” she said. “I think it’s important.”
Chief Operations Officer Michele LaBute said if the district would allow that, it would allow 178 students to stay at Gulf Coast High School, which is more than half of the students they were preparing to rezone.
“Space-wise, it will be very, very difficult,” she said, adding the district would probably have to bring in portables to accommodate that.
Karen Dwyer, a former teacher at Lely High School, also argued against rezoning. She urged the board to consider putting portables at the schools to accommodate for overcrowding at schools, saying the schools were not the same.
“Lely is FCAT challenged. And in our schools, FCAT scores dictate what is taught. This means at Lely, there are more FCAT remediation classes and fewer AP classes,” she said. “In our schools, there is favoritism for the few that struggle with the FCAT.”
Dwyer said equal education means the same classes at all of the schools and, if the district could not provide equal education, it should provide the $3 million for portables for students.
“The students should come first, not the money,” she said.
The School Board will take a final vote on the rezoning on Feb. 18.