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Elementary boundaries changed for next year

BRADENTON — With the opening of the new G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary School scheduled for August, the strange, gerrymandered district lines for several other elementary schools will be eliminated.

The Manatee County school board accepted in a unanimous vote Monday the recommendation of Superintendent Tim McGonegal for the simplified attendance district lines for Ballard, Bayshore, Manatee, Prine, Moody and Sea Breeze elementary schools.

McGonegal had the pick of three maps that committees of parents and school staff developed over several months of meetings.

He decided on the simplified district map Committee A presented where the district lines of Ballard and Manatee meet at First Street.

The changes extend the boundaries of the Ballard and Manatee schools by including four, approximately three-block slivers of areas that ran from the Manatee River south to 17th Avenue West and 13th Avenue West.

Those attendance boundaries were established several years ago to achieve a racial and social-economic balance at the other four schools, forcing students from those island-type areas to be bused out of their neighborhood.

“Those areas were designated at a time when there was a need for diversity in our schools,” McGonegal told the school board. “We’ve achieved that.”

In making his decision to recommend the Committee A map, the superintendent said he remembers growing up and walking to his neighborhood elementary school and what it meant to him.

With the planned opening of Rogers elementary just south of 13th Avenue West and west of the Bradenton Villages community, it was anticipated that many of the students now riding a bus up to 5 miles will attend the closer neighborhood school, either Ballard, Manatee or Rogers.

Rogers elementary school will open with 350 students, about the number of students now living in those sliver areas.

The two other committee maps suggested similar districts as Committee A, but Committee B had a portion of Manatee and Ballard elementary school districts extending across First Street and Committee C maintained a sliver area for Sea Breeze students.

Three members of the audience of roughly 50 spoke during the public hearing Monday, voicing their concerns.

Rafael Allen said he thought the Committee A map was better because the district lines were split down First Street.

Allen said unless a crossing guard was provided at 13th Avenue and First Street for after-school activities it would be a dangerous intersection for the students to cross.

McGonegal said because of the reduced number of students who would be living west of First Street in Committee B’s proposed attendance district for Manatee elementary, there probably would not be funding available for a crossing guard.

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