School board discusses priorities for rezoning 

Alachua County Public Schools district office admin building
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Alachua County Public Schools’ (ACPS) priorities for its comprehensive rezoning efforts will again be on the agenda for the school board’s Tuesday evening meeting, along with public hearings for proposed changes to student conduct codes and other board policies. 

The School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) began a public discussion of its priorities for the rezoning effort at a May 31 workshop, talking through some of the issues involved with the ACPS team that’s leading the rezoning effort.  

Students are spread unevenly across the system, with some schools over capacity and other schools under capacity, SBAC Chair Tina Certain said. This uneven spread of students is prompting the rezoning effort. 

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Because of the expense of building new schools, board members said they supported using the existing schools and redistributing students in over-enrolled schools to under-enrolled schools. 

Dr. Anntwanique Edwards
Courtesy of ACPS Anntwanique Edwards

The rezoning process will involve shifting students eastward from the more overcrowded schools in the western part of the county to less crowded schools on the east side, said Anntwanique Edwards, the school system’s chief of equity, inclusion and community engagement.  

However, the team is not talking about moving students geographically far from their homes, but instead moving groups of students “systematically across the district, which is still nearby where they currently live or reside,” Edwards said. 

“I know in previous community input sessions, there was lots of concern from parents that we would be moving all the way to the other side of town, but when we talk about west to east, we’re not talking about sending students from Newberry to Hawthorne,” she told the board. 

At the workshop, the team working on rezoning asked the board to provide direction on several issues related to rezoning, including the board’s: 

  • Primary focus for the rezoning effort 
  • Support for combining schools or decoupling schools that serve elementary and middle or middle and high school students 
  • Ranking of socio-economic diversity as a consideration in the system’s schools rezoning 
  • Definition of neighborhood schools 
  • Support for maintaining and managing magnet programs at the elementary, middle and high school levels 
  • Prioritization of a two-mile walkout zone as the basis for rezoning efforts 

The board did not answer or address every question from the rezoning committee but did identify financial and administrative efficiency as a top priority of the board. 

“Every single one of these bullet [points] that we have to consider to give staff direction on is [tied to] financial impact,” Certain said. “And we can’t dodge that bullet… We have to balance that plate. That’s the plate that’s at the center, and it’s going to hold all of this together.” 

The school system’s current zoning is based on a neighborhood school model that sends students to the schools that are geographically closest to the students’ homes, Edwards said.  

SBAC Board Member Tina Certain
Courtesy of Alachua County Public Schools Tina Certain

This sort of zoning limits transportation costs and allows students to be educated in their communities, but it also creates schools with high needs and limits socio-economic diversity at schools, according to the rezoning team. 

“Neighborhood schools, when we went to that, because housing is so segregated in our community, we in essence pulled back all of the diversity that we had had in our school district back in 2003,” Certain said. “That means we had schools that were majority white and majority Black and that created a really tough learning environment.”  

Financial considerations as well as over-enrollment are pushing the rezoning team and the board to discuss policies for the system’s magnet programs. Among the things the board is expected to address as part of future discussions is whether to limit transportation to magnet school programs and/or cap the number of students who live outside a school’s geographic area who are able to participate in its magnet programs. 

The school system spends nearly $800,000 a year to transport students who attend a magnet program outside of their zoned school, Edwards said.  

“As we look at it, definitely our finances have a big impact on all the things we are considering,” said interim Superintendent Shane Andrew. “I think working into this new budget, that’s going to help bring some clarity there. I think we should keep in mind certainly capacity and utilizing those existing schools – those all go together.” 

In addition to continuing its discussion of rezoning, the school board will hold a series of public meetings concerning changes to board policies. Chief among these changes are updates to the school system’s codes of student conduct.  

In May, the board approved on first reading changes to the school’s policies on weapons and fighting, and added a description of the consequences for violating vaping policy and school bus rules.  

The fighting policy states that students are expected to walk away from fights and that students who film, encourage or move towards a fight also can be disciplined under the code of conduct. 

The changes also expand the number of things defined as weapons—adding tasers, BB guns, pepper spray and similar items to the list of things considered weapons. 

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Juan

This will become a zoo of lawsuits. Charter Schools are going to continue growing and a decade from now will out number the public schools The relic ACSB and decision makers appear to be on the train to dumming down the educational success of students. They don’t even try to keep it a secret. What failed leadership and agendas . Time for a Education Bill that make the school board tax for parents only , and a charter vs public tax payment option. Bring on the vouchers Govenor , we need to expidte the succession from public school board wokeness.