School District considering changes to Storm Grove Middle’s rezoning plans

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Students who currently attend Sebastian River or Gifford Middle schools could be allowed to finish their middle school career there instead of being forced to transfer to Storm Grove under the latest rezoning proposal.

The move is an attempt to reach a compromise with families who would otherwise be impacted by the proposed rezoning of two areas, moving about 400 students from Sebastian River and Gifford to the newest middle school.

Students who would be rezoned to Storm Grove could be allowed to exercise an option that would keep them at their current middle school, School District staff presented to the School Board Tuesday morning.

The School District would continue to provide transportation for those students for two years.

The district is working to reach a balance in student populations at the four middle schools. Storm Grove Middle is at about half-capacity while Gifford and Sebastian River sit at nearly 95 percent.

Oslo Middle School will not be affected by the rezoning.

“We made as many changes as we were comfortable making,” Deputy Superintendent Michael Degutis told the School Board.

Degutis explained that the district staff agreed to provide transportation for two years to make the option “more palatable” to parents and students – to “extend the olive branch.”

“I’m pleased with the compromise that’s been made,” School Board member Claudia Jimenez said.

While School Board members in general seemed receptive to the proposal, two members questioned how the district would address younger siblings of current Sebastian River and Gifford Middle students.

Board member Jeff Pegler raised the issue that, as a matter of practicality for families, siblings moving from elementary to middle should be allowed to attend the same middle school as their older sibling.

Board Chairman Matt McCain agreed.

Under the latest version of the proposed rezoning plans, incoming sixth grade students in the rezoned areas would have to go to Storm Grove Middle, regardless of whether they have a sibling at Sebastian River or Gifford.

“You’ve got to draw the line somewhere,” Transportation Director George Millar said.

“I don’t think we’re talking about too many kids,” McCain said and asked the staff to consider granting families some flexibility.

“We can take a look at that,” Degutis said.

The staff expects to review the board’s suggestions and report back at the March 22 School Board meeting. The School Board is expected to take a final, formal vote on the rezoning at that time.

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