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Deer Park Elementary dropped from start-time change list

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LAND O' LAKES - Eight Pasco County schools will have new start and dismissal times this coming year, but because of an outcry from parents, Deer Park Elementary won't be among them.The school board voted Tuesday evening to change the operating times for two elementary schools, one middle school, two high schools and three education centers as part of a cost-saving effort to balance the fiscal 2014 budget.In each case, the schools would start and end their days anywhere from roughly 30 minutes to an hour later than was previously the case.The schools affected and their new times are: Fivay High School, from 8:30 a.m. until 2:55 p.m.; Schwettman Education Center, from 8:40 a.m. until 2:50 p.m.; Irvin Education Center, from 8:30 a.m. until 2:50 p.m.; Moore-Mickens Education Center, from 8:45 a.m. until 3:05 p.m.; Bayonet Point Middle School, from 7:30 a.m. until 1:40 p.m.; New River Elementary, from 9:40 a.m. until 3:50 p.m.; West Zephyrhills Elementary, from 9:40 a.m. until 3:50 p.m.; and Ridgewood High, from 8:30 a.m. until 2:55 p.m.District officials say the time changes would allow the transportation department to consolidate bus routes and eliminate 30 or more bus-driver jobs, although no one would be laid off. The savings is expected to be at least $803,584.Deer Park Elementary in New Port Richey originally was included, but Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning asked the board to remove that school from the list just before the vote because of parental opposition. Browning said Deer Park has a small percentage of bus riders, so leaving the school's hours as is should not affect the transportation savings.Deer Park begins the day at 8:40 a.m. and ends it at 2:50 p.m. The proposal would have shifted both those times an hour later, a move parents at the New Port Richey school didn't like. Many of them contacted board members or the district offices, and one parent spoke to the board Tuesday evening.Judy Lambert, the mother of two Deer Park students, said the school is in a working-class community where often both parents have jobs. A later school start would be an added burden for parents who would need to find morning child care, she said."We see children walking to school unsupervised to begin with," Lambert said. "That will give them an additional hour they will be unsupervised if parents can't afford child care."She said doctor appointments could be another problem. A 2:50 p.m. dismissal time leaves room for scheduling an appointment after school, but moving that to 3:50 p.m. provides less of a window.Although Browning agreed to drop the school from the time-change list, he said he still has concerns about safety because of increased traffic from a Dollar General store opening across the street from Deer Park. He said the district will monitor that situation and could revisit the school's hours next year.

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