In a continuation of its comprehensive rezoning plan, the Alachua County School Board heard community concerns and postponed the next hearing of the plan to January during a nearly two-hour meeting Tuesday night.
About 20 members of the public — most of whom were parents of elementary school children — voiced their concerns with the updated map, which would primarily affect elementary schools in west Gainesville.
Several residents of the Huntington and Suburban Heights communities said they moved to those homes specifically to attend the elementary schools for which they were originally zoned. The proposed rezoning would move their children to different schools where they were less comfortable and further from home, commenters said.
Erin Karcinski, a parent living in Suburban Heights, said she had been looking forward to sending her daughter to Littlewood Elementary School, which is about one mile away from her home. Rezoning would require her to drive to Glen Springs Elementary School, about four miles away.
Because of her work schedule and concerns about school buses, making the time to drive to Glen Springs would disrupt her family’s involvement in extracurricular activities, she said.
“That's really going to cut us out of being able to participate in a lot of afterschool activities that we would love to participate in,” she said.
Other public commenters pointed out the proposed plan would not solve the problem with overpopulation in some schools, which was a main goal of rezoning in the first place. Five elementary schools are over 100% capacity based on enrollment today, including Littlewood and Meadowbrook. Under the new rezoning plan, seven schools are projected to be over that capacity, according to county data.
One commenter, Jonathan Yorkowitz, said his children are enrolled at Meadowbrook, which is 16% over capacity. If they are rezoned, they’ll attend Terwilliger Elementary School, which is projected to have the same amount of crowding.
“I'm just concerned about the lack of forethought and what's going to happen moving forward,” he said.
Of all the public comments, there was only one that commended the board for attempting to rezone schools without making a complaint.
Board chair Diyonne McGraw made clear she and the board appreciate public comments as part of developing the rezoning plan.
“I don’t want anybody to think we’re not listening,” McGraw said.
While the board was originally going to hear the rezoning plan for the second time Dec. 5, it instead voted to push that date back to the second week of January, a move it had signaled it would make during the Oct. 18 meeting.
If the board chooses to pause the rezoning plan, or to push it back past the Jan. 15 deadline, the 90-day period during which the plan is heard and revised must start over. Rezoning is unlikely to be implemented by the 2024-2025 school year if the board misses the Jan. 15 deadline, vice chair Leanetta McNealy implied, to which county attorney Susan Seigle said, “it would be difficult, yes.”
The board discussed whether it would pause the rezoning plan but did not make a clear decision at the meeting.
Contact Alissa Gary at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaGary1.
Alissa Gary is a second-year journalism major who's covering K-12 education for The Alligator. She has previously reported on student government and university administration. Aside from writing, she likes to take care of her plants and play (and usually win) the New York Times sudoku puzzle.