Parents feel Collier School Board ignored neighborhood’s rezoning request

Rezoning meeting at Golden Gate High School

Parents discontent over rezoning

Collier County parents gather with members of ...

— Collier County School Board members worked to make community members understand that they listened to them during the rezoning process over the past couple of months.

For one neighborhood, it was clear the School Board didn’t hear what they had to say.

Dan Rogers, who lives on 13th Avenue Southwest, west of Collier Boulevard, spoke for a group of about 10 parents and students Thursday evening, saying their neighborhood — a group of streets located west of 951 — felt cheated because the School Board rezoned Logan Woods to Naples High School and Collier Woods to Gulf Coast High School while not honoring their request.

“We want to stay at Gulf Coast High School,” Rogers said. “The changes you made to those neighborhoods apply to us as much as anyone else.”

The Collier County School Board voted last month to keep the Collier Woods neighborhood at Gulf Coast High School after receiving information that the proposal would effectively send one half of the neighborhood to Golden Gate High School while the northern half of Collier Woods would be sent to Gulf Coast High School.

The neighborhood had been working to unify since 2000 and board members agreed students should not be separated.

The School Board also voted to move the Logan Woods neighborhood to Naples High School.

Board Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo told the parents and students that the board would not revisit the rezoning issue for high school students. That said, she suggested that the neighbors meet with Superintendent Dennis Thompson and Golden Gate High School Principal Jose Hernandez to facilitate a smooth transition.

“Rezoning is not easy for any student, but we have made a decision and the decision we made last month was unanimous,” she said.

Rogers said he believed the district should revisit the issue, saying his area’s 20 students should not be uprooted.

“Our neighborhoods go to elementary school together, we go to middle school together. We should go to high school together,” he said. “They created a difference between us.”

The discussion came after the Collier County School Board held its first reading on a policy change that would allow juniors and seniors to stay at their current high school should they be rezoned.

The district’s current policy allows only incoming seniors to stay at their schools if they can provide their own transportation.

There were no comments from board members on the issue, which is expected to pass easily next month.

Parent Sheri Barnett thanked the board for its consideration.

The School Board also discussed revisions to its school entrance policy, which requires parents to show proof of residency to enroll their student in a particular school. The district is revising its policy after several parents complained at the rezoning meetings that their children were being sent to another school while the district allowed children who did not live in the school district to attend that particular school by cheating the system.

Thompson said while he does not believe parents and students are cheating the system, he admitted that the district’s rules were not well defined. He said the new policy was an attempt to do that.

Parents must provide one proof of residency, including a homestead exemption card, property tax bill, rental agreement or home purchase contract with a copy of the deed to be provided to the school within 60 days.

In addition, parents must provide two of the following: Florida driver’s license or identification card, the last two statements from the parent’s automobile insurance bill, a current electric billing statement with the address, or at least two statements from the water, cable or land line phone bill.

Parents who live with someone else must provide a notarized letter from the person they are living with saying that the parent and the child both reside at the address and two forms of identification from both the parent and the person they are living with, according to the new policy.

Should a student move, the school will accept that the move is complete when, among other things, the utilities have been transferred to the new address and mail is being received at the new residence.

Board member Steve Donovan liked the policy.

“It puts teeth into this. It shows we heard what the public said in the town hall meetings and we are dealing with it,” he said.

But Curatolo and Board member Pat Carroll wanted to know how it would be enforced. Thompson said the district would check on any students who move schools or who are new to the district, but said the district would continue to rely on reports from parents and students who turn in students who are not in the correct zone.

“We have 40,000 students. We don’t have the resources to check all of them,” he said.

But Board member Roy Terry did not like that, saying part of the concern parents had was that the district was relying on others for the information.

Thompson said he believed that a key aspect of the change is that it does not allow parents to claim more than one residence because the district is requiring one additional piece of proof and counts the home a parent received homestead exemption for as the primary residence of the child.

Several board members suggested that the district inform parents and students of the change, either with the schools’ phone trees or at spring athletic practices to ensure that families understand they have to be in compliance.

Those who are not in compliance will be immediately withdrawn from the school they attend and sent to the school in the boundary in which they live. Students who live in one school boundary but want to attend a school in another will have to apply under the district’s choice and out-of-zone program.

The board will have a second reading on the grandfathering policy and the residency policy at its April 15 meeting, which will be held in Everglades City.

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