INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Nearly 70 parents and students turned out to the first of two community meetings to express concerns over the proposed plan to shuffle almost 400 students from Sebastian River Middle to Storm Grove.
Those who spoke opposed the plans for several reasons including the need, how their students would adjust and the increased travel time and distance.
Parents took issue with the School District’s decision to build the $45 million Storm Grove Middle School a few years ago and the district’s plan now to move students around to fill the new school.
“We’re fixing the boo-boo” of having built the school, parent Janean Barrows said, drawing chuckles and agreement from fellow parents.
Storm Grove Middle was built to not only accommodate future growth but also to relieve severe overcrowding at the district’s other middle schools, Deputy Superintendent Michael Degutis told the audience at the start of the meeting.
A lack of growth as projected has left Storm Grove Middle hovering between 50 and 60 percent capacity, while other schools are over 90 percent capacity.
Jodi Goodrich told the School District that she was upset about her child being moved yet again due to rezonings.
“It seems like you’re always moving (Vero Lake Estates) kids,” she said, explaining that her child was shifted around multiple times for elementary school and possibly now for middle school.
“Just stop touching VLE,” she said.
District Transportation Director George Millar explained to the audience that the communities selected for the rezoning were the most student-dense and would mean the least amount of disruption for the community, the schools and the district.
Degutis told the audience that it is difficult for the district to share with them all the scenarios the staff has run to help balance the student population. He explained that numerous scenarios were “crazy.”
“This is probably the least crazy of them,” Degutis said.
The southern half of Vero Lake Estates – those south of 85th Street – would be rezoned for Storm Grove, as would a portion of central and south Vero Beach, between State Road 60 and 8th Street and 58th and 27th avenues.
Though only about 400 students currently enrolled at Sebastian River would be affected, those enrolled at all elementary schools except Citrus and Highlands could be affected.
Parent Amanda Hollers asked about the possibility of Liberty Magnet Elementary students to remain zoned for Sebastian River Middle, due to the International Baccalaureate program both schools have.
Storm Grove does not have the IB program, but instead offers pre-Advanced Placement.
“It’s under consideration,” Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. Fran Adams told Hollers and the crowd.
As the proposal stands now, those who currently are zoned for Sebastian River and are enrolled in the IB program could be among the first to be considered for out of zone waivers to go to that middle school.
“We haven’t shut the door on that,” Adams said, though she cautioned that a firm decision has not yet been made.
“It’s not right,” Hollers responded. “You guys know it’s not right. It’s not fair.”
Ed Parker, a father of three – one a fifth grader – seemed equally upset about the proposal to switch schools.
“We need to figure out a way to keep our kids going to Sebastian River,” Parker said, adding that he would do everything he could to keep his fifth grader and second grader in line for Sebastian River, even if it meant changing addresses. “Help us not do that.”
Parents also told School District staff that they were concerned about how their students’ relationships and friendships would suffer under the rezoning plans, noting that many have friends in Vero Lake Estates on the north side of 85th Street.
Another issue parents had was what they believed to be a lack of notice for Thursday’s meeting. Some said they only learned of the meeting that day because a fellow parent, one from Treasure Coast Elementary, told them about it. Parents at Treasure Coast received direct notices of the meeting, while parents at other elementary schools did not.
School District staff said they would send messages directly to all impacted schools’ parents in advance of the next scheduled meeting, set for Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. at Glendale Elementary in Vero Beach.
A third possible meeting might be held at Storm Grove Middle between then and the March 22 School Board meeting when a public hearing and a vote are expected.
A parent made the suggestion that a meeting be held at the middle school so that affected families could see the school they might be attending.
For more information about the possible rezoning or to express concerns, ask questions or offer suggestions, parents are encouraged to contact the following district staff members: