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Vote approaches for Gainesville school choice changes
01312018 SCHOOL
Gainesville City School System Superintendent Jeremy Williams with Lizzet Flores, executive assistant, translating at a school choice and pre-K meeting Tuesday at Centennial Arts Academy. About 40 families were in attendance at the meeting. - photo by Joshua Silavent

Gainesville school officials will vote on proposed changes to attendance zones and pre-K expansion next week after concluding the final public meeting on the matter Tuesday night at Centennial Arts Academy.

Officials are proposing to limit school choice in an effort to balance attendance at the city school system’s six elementary schools, as well as provide pre-K at each school.

Parents can currently choose which elementary school their child attends, with the exception of the new Mundy Mill Academy.

Under the proposal revealed earlier this month, Gainesville’s elementary schools would be divided into two clusters, with parents choosing their child’s school within that cluster.

One cluster would include Centennial, Fair Street, New Holland and Enota elementaries. The other would include Mundy Mill and Gainesville Exploration.

If parents choose to send their child to a school outside of their cluster, they will be required to provide their own transportation.

About 12 percent of students will not attend their current school under the proposed changes.

To make this work, school officials are also redrawing attendance zones for each individual school to level enrollment.

Currently, for example, 53.5 percent of students attending Centennial Arts Academy live in the school’s zoned district. Meanwhile, 58.9 percent of students at New Holland come from outside the school’s zoning. And Fair Street has just 42.7 percent of its students residing within its zone.

For many Latinos living in the Catalina subdivision of Gainesville, like Marcos Cruz, the changes have little effect.

Cruz will be able to send two daughters to Gainesville Exploration Academy while his youngest will currently have to attend pre-K at Mundy Mill when she is old enough.

Cruz, following Tuesday’s meeting, said this information was a relief.

Desiree Gilmore has two special-needs children and said she has concerns about whether her elementary-age boy would have to leave the Fair Street International Academy where “he is just blossoming … after three years.”

Keeping the same personnel lined up for her son is critical, Gilmore said at the meeting.

“Is there any way I could pack up my teachers and take them with us?” she joked.

The Gainesville Board of Education meets Monday to vote on the proposed changes.