Miami Herald: Broward School Board postpones boundary shift

Dec 8, 2009

The Miami Herald published this article on December 8, 2009


Broward School Board members on Tuesday informally agreed to push back a contentious attendance boundary switch that would shuffle hundreds of students in Cooper City, Hollywood and possibly Pembroke Pines.

The one-year delay of the move, which would alleviate crowding at Pioneer Middle School in Cooper City, gives the school district more time to try to avoid a series of looming boundary changes by loosening how the school system and Broward municipalities define school crowding.

The push to postpone the boundary shift was not unanimous. Board member Bob Parks argued it would be better for the district to move pit Pioneer students to help fill underenrolled schools — and said the delay would just push back the inevitable.

“You can’t continue to keep that population that large without building new classrooms, without building new schools and without finding new dollars,” Parks said. “I hope we’re ready next year to make some real tough decisions.”

He and board member Stephanie Kraft said if the board officially approves the Pioneer delay after a series of hearings next year, the two of them will ask that students who got shuffled out of their schools last school year have the option to go back to their old schools.

Parks and Kraft took heat earlier this year for signing off on boundary moves that transferred kids from Lyons Creek Middle in Coconut Creek to Margate Middle and from Riverglades Elementary to Park Trails Elementary, both in Parkland.

Parents who fought those changes will be upset that they didn’t get a reprieve, but Pioneer Middle did, Parks and Kraft said.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Parks added.

Board chairwoman Jennifer Gottlieb said that each school’s situation was different.

The Pioneer proposal — the only significant boundary change for the 2010-11 school year — was protested by hundreds of parents at recent meetings. It would have transferred about 170 incoming sixth- and seventh-graders from Pioneer to Pines Middle or Driftwood Middle in Hollywood.

To make room for Pioneer students, under either option, a further 170 Pines students or 185 Driftwood students would be transferred to Apollo Middle, also in Hollywood.

The delay gives the district time to ask Broward’s cities and the county to amend an agreement that measures student enrollment. Loosening the enrollment — and thus changing the definition of when a school is considered overcrowded — could help avoid a boundary shift at Pioneer altogether.

Otherwise, students from all three grades at Pioneer — sixth, seventh and eighth — would have to be transferred next year. The board has favored phasing in grades in the past.

“It’s not fair to have kids that already started in that school move,” said Itai Raz, the board’s student advisor, who is a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.

But board members have since reversed their position.

“If we don’t need to bounder students at this point, we don’t need to do it,” Phyllis Hope said.

Boundary changes are often controversial — and several board members face reelection in November, though that political concern did not come up in discussions Tuesday.

The board also set boundaries for a new, unnamed Hollywood K-8 Montessori magnet school, which in turn led to changes to the boundaries of the school district’s two other Montessori magnet programs.

The new school, known as School C, is expected to open in the fall and also have preschool students, as well as a Montessori magnet program.

The school will have 150 seats for neighborhood residents who live in the South Broward High School feeder pattern. Enrollment is expected to be 750 pupils.

Twenty-five percent of the remaining seats will be open to children south of Interstate 595 who attend an overcrowded school. The rest of the seats would be assigned randomly to children who live south of I-595 and apply to the school’s magnet program.

Students who live south of I-595 and attend existing Montessori magnet programs — at Virginia Shuman Young Elementary and Sunrise Middle, both in Fort Lauderdale — will have the option of staying at their schools. Their siblings will also be able to join them, if they want.

The boundaries at Shuman Young and Sunrise will also change to give priority to students who live north of I-595.