PARRISH -- There's a best- and a worst-case scenario and where students attend class in Manatee County School District hangs in the balance.
That's what community members on the Long-Range Planning Steering Committee must keep in mind as they discuss options to balance enrollment in overcrowded and undercrowded district schools.
"All of what we've done has had a dual focus. If we had our way, how would we fix it? And if we had no money, what can we do to fix it, which is a very real scenario," said Robert Johnson, district director of planning and performance management said at Wednesday's meeting at Buffalo Creek Middle School. "Our increased funding sources impact fee, sales tax and the levy -- those are not guaranteed."
That means steering committee members have to come up with some creative options. The steering committee is led by Scott Leopold from DeJong-Richter, an Ohio-based company hired by the district to help navigate the process.
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The committee looked over different scenarios at each level -- high school, middle school, and broke the elementary schools out by geographic region-- to discuss which options to survey the community on next year.
"The goal right now is to get general feedback on these different scenarios. Not holistic plans to vote on,� Leopold said.
Discussion included surveying community on whether adding programs to underused schools would then drive up the number of students and families choicing into those schools, which could help level off schools now overcrowded.
Other questions will ask community members how they'd feel about being shifted from areas zoned Mills Elementary School to attend either Palm View or Blackburn elementary schools.
"My rose-colored glasses tell me that if we rezone a portion of Mills to Blackburn, it's going to change the perception of Blackburn," Leopold said.
In this line of work, perception and rezoning choices upset people the most, organizers said.
;No matter what we choose, we're going to (upset) a bunch of people, period," Johnson said. "It's about what's best for the kids."
Committee members wrestled with including an option to create a dedicated vocational high school, which would open seats in the traditional high school and potentially help some students struggling in the traditional setting.
The perception problem, Leopold said, is that option could look like it's competing with Manatee Technical College, where high school students can enroll in technical programs if it fits with their classes.
Some committee members thought the two wouldn't necessarily compete if marketed well enough.
Others seemed to prefer spending the potential resources to build another traditional high school and continue to allow students to work with the program at Manatee Technical College.
The finalized survey will be given out during at a meeting from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 16 at Bayshore High School. Community members will be able to provide feedback, rank different scenarios and offer suggestions for the steering community.
Breaking the plans into smaller scenarios helps people digest the information and work those different decisions into a more holistic approach, DeJong-Richter said. Ultimately, the committee will piece together holistic scenarios for the Manatee County School Board. Recommendations will be presented to the board Jan. 19, and members will make the final decision.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.