Pasco County parents appeal rezoning ruling, seek to delay boundary change
Claiming legal and factual "errors" in a state hearing judge's recent ruling against them, the parents challenging recent revisions to Pasco County's west-side middle and high school attendance zones have appealed the final order and asked the court to delay the change until a decision is reached.
In requesting the stay, Robert Stines, the parents' lawyer, argued that forcing the children to switch schools in the fall only to win their case later on would create an unfair hardship. "Conversely," Stines wrote, "there will be very little harm, if any, to the School Board is the stay is granted for a number of reasons."
He noted, for instance, that the rezoning is not taking place because a new school is opening, so no campus will sit empty as a result. Also, he added, the petitioners are seeking a stay only as it relates to families living in the Longleaf and Ellington subdivisions (referred to as Area 12 in the rezoning process).
"Accordingly, a stay will not prevent the School Board from implementing the remainder of the boundary modifications in the proposed rule," Stines wrote.
The move of Area 12 was the largest part of the west side rezoning. The Longleaf/Ellington parents, who do not want their children to move from Seven Springs Middle and Mitchell High into River Ridge middle and high schools, have argued that the district did not follow proper legal procedure for rule making when setting the boundaries, a position hearing judge D.R. Alexander did not accept.
District officials have suggested the families are trying to draw out the process to avoid making the move. This challenge, along with a similar one from the east side of the county, mark the first significant fight the district has encountered when redrawing attendance zones. The end result could have ripple effects throughout Florida, in that it could set a new standard for student assignment.
In a related matter, the west-side parents won their request to have Judge Declan Mansfield removed from hearing their complaint that the rezoning advisory committee held meetings outside the Sunshine. They alleged that Mansfield would be biased because his wife, county Clerk Paula O'Neil, uses the same lawyer as the School Board.
Judge Kimberly Sharpe Byrd was assigned to the case on Monday.