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Rezoning for Plant High School causes concerns over diversity and inequity

Parents in the North Bon Air neighborhood claim Plant High School will become less diverse by pushing their community out.

TAMPA, Florida — Hillsborough County Schools has been receiving feedback from parents and community members since announcing its plans to redraw school boundary lines in an effort to better balance school populations.

Many parents are concerned about their children being sent to schools farther from their homes, schools that historically rank lower academically, and schools that take them away from the friends and relationships they've made over the years.

While no plan is final, the district outlined three new scenarios for school zones which could impact anywhere from 11,000 to 24,000 students. That's about 6 to 14 percent of the district's population. The school board expected to make a determination by the end of February.

People can type in their address using the district's interactive web tool and see how their children or property would be impacted by the different boundary scenarios. Click here to see the interactive map.

Some parents in the North Bon Air neighborhood in South Tampa are concerned about diversity and inequity if they get pushed out of the Plant High School zone and instead feed Jefferson High School.

By removing this great neighborhood from feeding Plant High School, it will reduce diversity even more and make it worse for Plant as well, " said Emma Rogier whose son is a 10th grader at Plant.

The Rogier family specifically bought their home six years ago so their sons could attend Coleman Middle School and Plant High School. Two of the three scenarios proposed by the district eliminate this pathway.

"Plant high has over 40 extracurricular activities, Jefferson only has 8. It’s not even comparable," said Rogier whose watched her son excel in rowing at Plant High, a sport she's not even sure he'll have access to at Jefferson.

A few streets away, the Vanderburgs worry about the future for their three daughters.

"I’d rather see them pull up the scores of the lower schools they want to move us to, then I don’t think we’d see so much resistance," Harry Vanderburg who specifically bought his house eight years ago with the schools in mind explained.

So far, the overall experience has left many parents in the lower-middle class neighborhood feeling pushed out of Plant High and puts a magnifying glass on inequities in public education.

"I think they need to improve all the schools," Stacy Vanderburg said. "It shouldn’t be that you have to go to a great school or a terrible school, they need to balance the schools."

A district spokesperson said it’s not a guarantee that students won’t have access to classes and extracurriculars just yet. Should a decision on a change be made and once student transfers are final, the district will reevaluate what schools need additional staff and offerings. The district also provided a breakdown of demographic changes at Plant High School under the three proposed scenarios.

Scenario 1: No demographics changes at Plant

Scenario 2:

  • 1903 White students to 1858 White students
  • 469 Latin students to 415 Latin students,
  • 114 to 104 Black students
  • 127 to 117 Asian students

Scenario 3:

  • 1903 White students to 1783 White students
  • 469 Latin students to 368 Latin students
  • 114 Black students to 96 Black students
  • 127 to 105 Asian students

"It is important to note that under these scenarios, the socioeconomic diversity of the school remains basically unchanged. Currently, 15 percent of the students at Plant are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch. Under scenario 2 and 3, the number goes to 14%. It remains unchanged in Scenario 1," a Hillsborough County Public Schools spokesperson said in a statement.

Neighbors in the community have placed signs in their yards and formed online Facebook groups petitioning against the changes.

All this week, Hillsborough County Schools is holding 10 in-person community meetings where families, staff and others can view the boundary scenarios in person and provide online feedback.

Wednesday's meetings are at Plant High School and Leto High School.

The School Board will also discuss the possibilities at a workshop on Jan. 31. The board is expected to vote on a decision in late February. The superintendent says the change could save the district $150 million and would not impact employment. 

Any approved change would take effect for the 2023-2024 school year.

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