|Motion to Approve was moved by Diane Scott, Seconded by Scott Peden. Motion Failed by a Vote of 2 - 3.|
The Chairman opened the floor for the public hearing on revisions of school boundaries and asked Mr. Joey Harrell, Assistant Superintendent for Administration to come forward and review the process the district used to determine the revised boundaries being proposed.
Mr. Harrell began by stating that rezoning is a necessary step when a school begins to reach capacity and happens all over the State of Florida. The core density surrounding our Pace Schools is increasing but before we can build new schools or add additional capacity, we are directed to maximize the use of all open space which the taxpayers have funded. The State recommended capacity for schools are: 100% for Elementary; 90% for Middle Schools; and 95% for High Schools. Currently S. S. Dixon Primary School is at 106% capacity, S. S. Dixon Intermediate is at 85% capacity, while Chumuckla Elementary School is at 73% capacity. If all the students from Ashley Plantation were to transfer, capacity would increase to 88%
He explained that projects which increase our capacity must be approved by the Department of Education (5 year survey). Capital Outlay FTE (COFTE) projections are the basis for this approval. COFTE is not student enrollment nor is it FTE. The COFTE number used for the current 5 year survey is 24, 233 as opposed to the current enrollment of 26,100. Current COFTE projection for 2019-2020 is 24,810 students. Florida Inventory of School Houses (FISH) indicates that we currently have a capacity of 30, 291 student stations available throughout the school district. Based on current enrollment numbers, this translates to an 86% district wide utilization of space.
Mr. Harrell reviewed the following planned unit developments that are currently being built or have been approved for the near future. He started with Ashley Planation which has been approved for 476 lots, 163 have been constructed with an additional 313 lots remaining. Pace Mill Creek was approved for 285 single family dwellings, 123 have been constructed with 162 units remaining. Parkwood Commons has been approved for 213 lots with only 10 single family dwellings constructed with 203 remaining units. Wynfield Subdivision will have 59 approved plots. The vacant land located between North Spencer Field Road and Berryhill Road has been recently rezoned and there will be approximately 277 single family dwellings.
Mr. Harrell mentioned that he has reviewed other suggested areas to rezone at the suggestion of Ashley Plantation residents. He went over the number of students that live in Hammersmith, Habersham, Abernathy, Whisper Creek, Holly Cliff Estates, Cotton Wood Estates and the reasons for their boundaries. He also reviewed the areas of Floridatown, Woodland Manor, Bon View and Cambria, and Winners Gait.
There was also a conversation about the possibility of converting S. S. Dixon Primary and S. S. Dixon Intermediate to K-5 Schools. There are advantages to this idea and he went on to state that if we rezone and create two K-5 facilities, the percentages change dramatically and we have more available capacity for future growth. Given the same number of student stations (1,612), the two schools projected capacities would be 85%. Dixon Primary would house approximately 600 students and Dixon Intermediate would house approximately 768 students. This conversion would address the anticipated growth located within the core of Pace as well as saving tax payers dollars by more efficiently utilizing existing space.
Mr. Harrell mentioned the importance of student diversity. He reviewed the percentages of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and how rezoning can create a large scale inequity between schools.
Another concern he has heard from parents relates to transportation and before and after school childcare. The district will offer transportation to the Latchkey program located at Dixon Primary and possibly Dixon Intermediate. If the majority of families within Ashley Plantation request morning Latchkey services, one will be provided at Chumuckla Elementary School. The transportation department furnished him with the current morning and afternoon routes for Dixon Primary and Dixon Intermediate and the proposed routes for Chumuckla School. There was very little difference between the routes times and miles traveled. Students involved in gifted education will be offered the same opportunity as students enrolled at Dixon Primary and Intermediate.
In summary, Mr. Harrell stated that rezoning is a process that all school districts must incorporate in order to maximize the use of educational spaces. As the core density surrounding the Pace schools continues to increase, rezoning students to other schools will be required. He asked the board if they had any questions on his presentation.
Mrs. Granse stated that she has heard many comments from the parents and residents of Ashley Plantation regarding their opposition to rezoning their children from the Dixon schools to Chumuckla. Most of their concerns were before and after school childcare and transportation. She complimented Mr. Harrell and the district staff for putting together a plan to handle the overcrowding and said this is a tough position for the board. Dr. Scott asked about our involvement with the County and their approval process for all the new developments in Pace. She also asked what the impact would be if we don't rezone. Mr. Harrell explained that the first thing that comes to mind is that we will continue to be out of compliance with the class size amendment. There is no room for any additional portables. The board is required to show DOE they are working on bringing the schools into compliance. Mr. Harrell feels the idea of converting the primary and intermediate schools into K-5 schools is a good one, but it will require at least 3-6 months of planning and that won't help us right now. The board approved Mr. Harrell working with a certified planner through the University of Florida a few weeks ago and he mentioned he is looking forward to working with them on planning for future growth. Mrs. Boston asked if we were out of compliance with the class size amendment last year. Mr. Emerson confirmed that we were, and that is one of the reasons we are working on the rezoning plan.
Mr. Winkles called on the following people who indicated they wanted to address the board.
For a complete word for word transcript of the public hearing, please see the video. The following presentations to the board have been condensed.
Mr. Andrew Joslyn stated he appreciated the board giving him the opportunity to speak. He mentioned that the majority of the parents living in Ashley Plantation bought their homes there because they wanted their children to attend the Pace schools. The distance the children will be riding on buses will add an additional hour to both the morning and afternoon routes, not to mention that the distance would make it almost next to impossible for working parents to participate in school activities. He meet with Mr. Harrell and Mr. Wyrosdick and provided several different proposals but feels none of them have been considered. He suggested their children be rezoned to Berryhill Elementary as it is much closer than Chumuckla Elementary and they have room for them. He acknowledges the Pace area is going to grow, but feels we should plan for the students we already have in the district now and not the growth that is expected. He pointed out that there are 5 subdivisions closer to Chumuckla than Ashley Plantation. Mr. Joslyn mentioned that the district hasn't considered the waiver option, nor had the Superintendent completely investigated the option of converting the Dixon schools into K-5 schools. He also called attention to Press Gazette articles that reported Santa Rosa County cannot build a new school until all student stations are filled and that rezoning must be done before State approval to build a school. In an e-mail response that he received from Commissioner Stewart, the decision to rezone is completely a local decision, it is not a State mandate. He asks that the board instruct the staff to explore other options than rezoning the children from Ashley Plantation.
Dr. Tony Beckham stated he was a member of the Dixon Student Advisory Council and is the father of two sons. He said it is reasonable for the board to consider diversity as important and a cross section of the community in which they live. However, he feels the children of color will be negatively impacted if the rezoning goes though. Dr. Beckham called attention to the percentage of children of color in the Dixon Schools vs. Chumuckla Schools stating that he feels the impact will be harmful both in school and extracurricular activities. He believes that the population of Pace is more diverse and will provide children of color more opportunities and exposed to better culture.
Mrs. Boston asked if we know what the percentage of minority students is in Ashley Plantation. Dr. Scott asked if we conducted any demographic disparity study for the schools besides free and reduced lunches. Mr. Emerson responded that we don't know what the percentage is and a study has not been conducted. He stated you can step into any school in our county and you will find that the school represents that area. Each school tells a different story. Mr. Wyrosdick said that no disparity study has ever been done for a rezoning.
Mr. Frank Anderson shared with the board that he is in the military and has recently received orders to relocate. He put his home up for sale and received an offer, only to have it recanted when the buyers heard of the possibility of the neighborhood being rezoned to Chumuckla School. He stated that in his line of work he has to calculate where he buys a home when he knows he will have to sell it at a later date. The single most important item is the school district. He will have to lower the price of his home effectively lowering the values of the homes in Ashley Plantation. He asked the board to re-consider the recommendation of rezoning Ashley Plantation.
Gregg Gray came forward and said he hasn't heard anyone address the unique needs of the military. He stated military kids are always transferring to new schools, sometimes in the middle of a school year. He heard from the Military Liaison at Whiting Field that there are less than 10 military families attending Chumuckla School. He stated he didn't feel that school had the experience needed to deal with the needs of military kids. At Dixon Primary there are quite a few military families attending there and they would be going to school with plenty of students that are just like them. The teachers at Dixon are more familiar with the needs of military students and getting them up to speed quickly. He also was concerned with the distance. Now that he is on shore duty he can spend more time with his kids and likes to join them for lunch or other school activities. If they are transferred to Chumuckla that will not be possible because of the distance and time it will take to get there. He asks the board to please re-consider the recommendation of rezoning and look at other alternatives that could be used.
Mr. Wyrosdick stated that Chris Hendricks is here and is the Military Liaison and has told him they can provide services at Chumuckla School. Mr. Winkles asked Mr. Danny Carnley, Principal at Chumuckla to come forward. He said they don't have a large community of military families but they are looking forward to them coming and they will have a liaison to serve the school. His facility will make the students feel as comfortable as possible. Mrs. Boston asked if other neighborhoods in the Pace area have the same military populations. Mr. Harrell said most of the neighborhoods in the Pace area would have about the same percentage of military living there.
Ashley Lovelady shared with the board that she lives in a tiny neighborhood close to Floridatown. Her neighborhood might have 10 children total. She stated she doesn't understand why her street was picked for rezoning to Pea Ridge Elementary. She doesn't have a problem with any school but she would like her children to stay where they are. She feels the focus is on new growth not on the established neighborhoods who are already in place.
Amin Antoun came forward and said his family moved to Ashley Plantation two years ago and he has two children, 9 and 5 years old. He did a lot of research before deciding on where to live. He could have moved into the neighborhood across the street from where he works, but he decided on Ashley Plantation due to the schools. If he gets a call from the school letting him know one of his children is sick he will have double the commute to pick them up and get them back to the doctor. Another concern he has is with the buses. The air conditioning doesn't work well on them and now they have double the distance to travel on the buses. Bullying is also a concern when you have kids riding a bus with such a large age difference. He asked the board to please re-consider the rezoning as his children are adjusting well and he sees no reason for them to change.
Keith McIver explained that he moved to Ashley Plantation last August and has 5 children in the Pace school district. He reviewed the numbers that have been printed in the Pensacola News Journal that showed the primary school was at 106% capacity, the intermediate school is at 85% and Chumuckla is at 73%. Chumuckla currently has 293 students with a capacity of 403. He noticed they have 3 portables on the campus at Chumuckla. He understands with the class size amendment each portable would probably contain about 20 children. If the portables were moved, Chumuckla would have 293 students with a capacity of 343 which puts them at 85%.
Ray Ramirez stated that Mr. Joslyn addressed most of the concerns of the parents in Ashley Plantation, but they haven't received answers to the many proposals the community made to the district rather than re-zoning. He mentioned that $5 million dollars was spent at Chumuckla that could have been spent at the Dixon schools since most of the students attend those schools. Mr. Winkles said he thought the point that Mr. Harrell was making is that we have to show we are using all capacity before the state will allow us to build any new schools. Mr. Harrell confirmed the money spent at Chumuckla was survey generated, they had to replace the kitchen/cafeteria and add a music and art room. It all goes back to how large do you want to make a school? 1300 to 1400 students in an elementary school can begin to make it unmanageable.
Allison Ramirez came forward with a map that showed the distance between Ashley Plantation and several other schools in the Pace area, as well the distance between other neighborhoods to Chumuckla and Pace. She stated she wants her children to go to school in the community in which they live. She heard the proposed bus routes and feels there is no way they will be what the district is showing. While she respects Mr. Harrell's calculations, the distance is twice as long as it is now. There was discussion about what route the bus will take and whether it really would be quicker or not with fewer stops on the bus route.
Mrs. Ramirez told the board that she talked with a new resident of Ashley Plantation who told her Dixon would not enroll her 5 year old daughter in Kindergarten because she lived in Ashley Plantation. She also said that her daughter told her that over ITV the school is telling the children they are over capacity and some of them will be leaving before school starts next year. She said it feels as though this decision has already been made and the public hearing is just a formality. Mr. Winkles stated he felt confident in Mr. Harrell's bus transportation calculations due to his history of working with him. He said that in his 25 years on the board that at one time or another almost every community has been re-zoned. Mr. Wyrosdick said that if the school is making announcements to the students about the re-zoning, he will take care of it. As far as kindergarten registration, it might be they are not enrolling any students yet. Elementary Schools usually have a designated time for kindergarten registration.
In conclusion, Mrs. Ramirez asked the board to postpone the re-zoning and over the next 6-8 months work on other options.
Katie Henley shared with the board that her family built their home in Ashley Plantation and moved in December of 2013. She has 2 daughters and they built in Pace because they wanted their children to attend Pace schools. Her primary concerns were the commute from work being at least an hour away if she needed to get to them. She also was concerned about the condition of Chumuckla Elementary. She asked about lead base paint and asbestos. Mr. Harrell responded that we have reports from a study that was done a year and half ago that explained that as long as asbestos and lead based paint was encapsulated it isn't against code. Mr. Winkles gave her a copy of the minutes of the board meeting where this was discussed and also offered her a copy of the actual report if she wanted to read it. She asked if Mr. Wyrosdick knew when a new school might be built. He said he could not answer that question right now.
Joseph Mata asked the board what the school rating of Chumuckla was and Mr. Wyrosdick responded that it is currently rated a "B" school, however over the past 16 years it has been rated an "A" school. He has 4 children and moved from Virginia to make sure his children attended one of the top rated schools in the nation. He wanted his children to attend school with the same friends and have a stable environment from K-12. He feels moving them from an "A" school to a "B" school is not looking after their best interest. He is concerned about getting to his children in case of an emergency with such a long commute. Mr. Mata stated if the board was going to re-zone the children they should provide an equal education in the proximy of the neighborhood where the family lives and works. He encouraged the board to reject the re-zoning proposal.
Troy Barwick stated that his neighbors have all made good points this evening. He shared with the board that the Ashley Plantation citizens were voters who pay the board members salaries and they expect elected officials to do the right thing and this re-zoning isn't it. He feels this decision is back room policitics. He said that considering that Mr. Harrell's neighborhood had not been touched, he felt he should have recused himself from making the proposal. He asked the board to postpone their decision and allow residents to be part of the solution.
Julie LaRon asked the board how Ashley Plantation was picked to be the neighborhood to re-zone. Mr. Wyrosdick told her they didn't just pick them. The district studied the capacity of all schools, the distance, the number of children and the fact that a portion of Ashley Plantation is already zoned for Chumuckla weighted into the decision. She expressed her concern about being a working parent and having a commute of one hour if she needs to get to them. She is going to have to have before and after school care and her children will only be at home maybe 10 hours a day. She is worried about their grades and long term performance.
Peter Verchio asked if the board has looked at how many students may be attending Dixon schools who should be going to another school? Mr. Winkles asked if he was asking about board approved transfer requests? Mr. Wyrosdick said the board does due diligence to make sure the information provided by parents is correct but if we find out it isn't, the student is immediately disenrolled. Mr. Verchio noted that Ashley Plantation has been under development for 8 years and he understands the board has to plan for the future. He believed that Hammersmith was zoned for Berryhill Elementary School when it was developed. Since Mr. Harrell was previously the Assistant Principal of Dixon Intermediate and is now responsible for drawing up the re-zoning plans did the board consult the State of Florida Div. of Ethics, Office of Professional Practices or the Santa Rosa County State Attorney to determine if his decisions should be reviewed independently? Mr. Wyrosdick responded that he and the board have been provided with a transparent report and that Mr. Harrell used due tiling to make certain of his calculations. The answer to his question is No. Mr. Wyrosdick said he takes offense to the accusations that the district hasn't looked at other options.
Alan Isaacson shared with the board that he lives in Winner's Gait and has been on the Zoning Board for 4 years. The School Board has a seat on the board but no one has ever attended. The Zoning Board has restrictions they work under and probably could have cut the amount of homes approved by the hundred's if they had known there were issues. This is the first he has ever heard of an issue. This concerns him because he could have given the district valuable information and they could have worked together. The new subdivision that is going in off West Spencer Field Road is probably 3-5 years down the road. He asked why the new subdivision can't be bused to another school and leave the established neighborhoods alone. Mr. Isaacson said the Zoning Board is beginning to re-do their Comprehensive Plan this month and he would like to see someone from the school board attend these meetings.
Jonathan Tisdell came forward explaining that he was the father of a baby and right now the re-zoning would not affect them, however when the time comes he will not send this child that far away. He will either have to send him to a private school or sell his home at a loss. This discussion doesn't seem to be what is best for the children as it is about the penalty the district will have to pay if they don't meet the class size amendment. The presentation that Mr. Harrell made was to reach the goal of re-zoning. He said the Pace rural designation was changed back in 2010 and the district should have been working on this. If the school district moved the 3 portables at Dixon it would immediately change the dynamics of the school. He doesn't feel the district can vote yes on this re-zoning because no formal studies have been done on how it will affect the military, or minorities. There has been no concern about the residents property values going down. The residents concerns and objections have been brought up and answered tonight but no studies have been done to confirm anything. He feels the board cannot make a decision until the studies have been done.
Gabe Oguns moved into Ashley Plantation 6 weeks ago. He said he would have paid less money and moved to the Chumuckla area if he wanted his kids to go to that school. They paid more for their property to get the better school district. His child told him the ITV system at school has been telling them they will have move to move to another school. The board is looking at neighorhoods that haven't even been built yet. The board is elected and they are not protecting their interest.
Bummy Oguns came forward and mentioned that she has put her career on hold while raising her children. She can have lunch with them at school or pick them up from school but will not be able to do that as easily if they have to commute to Chumuckla. She said all the parents are here tonight for the benefit of their children.
Mr. Wyrosdick said that he appreciates all the passion he see tonight and it is obvious that everyone cares about their children. Santa Rosa County is blessed that we have schools that provide a high quality education. That education is provided whether it is Dixon, Sims, Chumuckla or any school in our district. He visited with Chumuckla Elementary this week and their passion for education is under estimated and under valued. They want to provide the best for all children. This is a hard decision for the board to make but he feels the 10-12 people who worked on the plan did their due diligence. Re-Zoning is required to maximize tax dollars. He appreciates Mr. Harrell and his team for the plan that was presented. He recommended the board pass the re-zoning as presented.
Mrs. Granse said she wishes there was something else we could do for these 63 children. If it was more like 100-150 children she could see re-zoning them. She has sat down with Mr. Harrell and Mr. Wyrosdick and all options were discussed. She doesn't feel it is fair for the residents to say they didn't research other options.
Dr. Scott disagrees with the comments that have been made that this is purely a financial decision. We have to take that into account any time we make educational decisions but this isn't about the penalty. She understands this is really tough.
Mrs. Boston stated this is very challenging, her family has been through this as well, and she has had to leave her career for her military spouse. The Navarre area has had to go through a lot of re-zoning as it has grown. She feels a lot of the way children react to re-zoning or moving has to do with the way parents react. She prefers the K-5 Elementary option and would like to see us evaluate that option further.
Mr. Peden said that he concurs with Mr. Harrell and Mr. Wyrosdick. He had about a 3 hour discussion with Mr. Harrell and feels they are good at what they do and feels they did their due diligence on looking into all options they could. He did say that tonight is the first time he has heard of the idea of converting the Dixon Schools into two K-5 schools. It is a viable option and we need to look into it. Dixon is over crowded and the students might not get the attention they need. The Class Size Amendment is there for a reason. As far as he is concerned the board has only two options. They can vote for the re-zoning or not, but if we don't vote for it, he doesn't want the board to be asked to change the boundaries of another neighborhood because we will be faced with the same issues.