Seminole school district takes steps toward rezoning

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SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - The Seminole County school district has just taken a major step toward rezoning dozens of elementary schools.

The school superintendent announced his first recommendation online Thursday night in a video posted on YouTube.

The announcement is the first phase in the controversial process and until that point, the district and school board had refused to discuss the plan publicly.

On the front page of Crystal Lake Elementary School's website, a message from the superintendent appeared, outlining his recommendations for rezoning.

"Rezoning is a complex, challenging and emotional process closely guided by district policy and reflecting input from all stakeholders," said Superintendent Walt Griffin.

The video, along with links to maps and other details, is directed at what's called the North Phase Elementary School Rezoning.

The plan includes 11 schools, along with two areas where parents would have three schools to choose from.

The plan comes from a six-month process of input from parents, residents and school board members. Currently parents in those areas can choose from five elementary schools, including Wilson, Crystal Lake, Idyllwilde, Wicklow and Bentley.

"My goal is to ensure that there are no school closings, no overcrowded schools and no empty classrooms. This is the fiscally responsible action to take," said Griffin.

The video was the first time the superintendent addressed the issue on camera, despite numerous requests for an interview from Channel 9.

"If he can post it on YouTube where millions of people can see it around the world, why can't they talk to the media so Seminole County residents can actually know what's going?" asked resident Diana Evans.

Evans was even more upset when she found out school board members were told not to talk to the media as well.

Channel 9 reporter Bianca Castro tried to track down board members Friday, but only two responded to her emails – directing her back to the superintendent's office.

"It is absolutely their obligation. It's their duty as a public official, who is again paid by the taxpayer,” said Evans.

The one administrator assigned to address the media insisted that parents are getting the answers they need.

"We're just getting and have gotten, really since the process started going back six months, an enormous amount of emails, calls that staff has returned to individually," said John Reichert of Seminole County Public Schools. "So there's been an extended period of time where we have had a lot of input and a lot of communication with the public."

Two other rezoning recommendations are still to come – the east and west zones.

In the end, 28 of 36 elementary schools will be rezoned.