School district shifting students Overcrowding causing rezoning

Gwen Bittner

For the Chronicle

Pleasant Grove Elementary School Principal Jennifer Hetland and Lecanto Primary School Principal Vickie Loftin have seen the effects of school overcrowding and say they’re not pretty.

Their schools are two of four scheduled to receive new attendance zone boundaries for the 2017-18 school year because facilities are at or nearing full capacity and are feeling the constriction of lost space.

“When our school or any school exceeds capacity there’s always that bulging at the seams type of feeling,” Hetland said. “The space is not always there to provide the best opportunities for our students.”

Pleasant Grove Elementary (PGE) is currently at 102 percent capacity, hosting 772 students when it was built to hold only 757.

“When we started in the year we were in the 90th percentile,” Hetland said. “It has slowly been creeping up and has now gone over.”

Increasing numbers of students and limited space have forced school staff to accommodate some programming without the use of a classroom.

“We have tried to be very creative in making sure that all of our classes and programs have space,” Hetland said.

“We have tried to move things around. A room that had been used for our REACH, gifted, and intervention, we moved that into a different space so that art could go into a classroom space instead of art-on-a-cart,” Hetland said.

Spaces once used for storage and professional development have had to be converted to active student spaces. Even lunch time is affected because cafeterias have maximum capacities.

“Our lunch time has to be extended quite a bit,” Hetland said.

Lecanto Primary School (LPS) faces some of the same space struggles.

“We have actually utilized the stage for our activities with students,” Loftin said. “We have had to use every space available.”

LPS has 846 students in a building designed to hold a maximum of 858. They are currently at 99 percent capacity and have grown the fastest out of any school in the district this year.

“I have been there five years and our increase has gone up substantially the last two years,” Loftin said. “It makes it very difficult to maintain the class size amendment guidelines.”

State law caps primary grade enrollment at 18 students per classroom and intermediate grades at 22.

“It’s overcrowding that makes it challenging,” Loftin said. “Space doesn’t grow.”

The school board has put rezoning plans into motion for next year to alleviate overcrowding. Meetings with school officials and parents are scheduled for this month to inform affected families.

“It pulls at our heartstrings,” Hetland said. “We become very connected to our students but we also know that we have excellent schools across our district. We know that they’ll still continue to receive the same curriculum, the same support, the quality that Citrus County believes in — excellence.”

“I believe that it will be in the best interest of all of the schools and all of the students,” Loftin said. “It will provide us an opportunity to maximize all of our resources.”

SCHOOL REZONING MEETINGS

The school district has scheduled the following open houses for families that will be impacted by school rezoning:

* Pleasant Grove to Hernando Elementary, at Hernando Elementary School from 4 to 6 p.m. today (Wednesday, March 8).

* Pleasant Grove and Inverness Primary to Floral City Elementary, at Floral City Elementary School from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 9.

* Lecanto Primary to Homosassa Elementary, at Homosassa Elementary School from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 22.

* Citrus Springs Middle to Crystal River Middle, at Crystal River Middle School from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23.

For more information and to see the proposed rezoning maps, go to www.citrus.k12.fl.us.

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