Madison Thurber and Lindsey Hellman weren’t exactly thrilled when they found out they’d have to leave their high school and transfer.
“I considered school (a) choice. I didn’t want to go at all. I guess a month before summer ended, I kinda of like accepted the fact. Kind of just got over it,” said Hellman.
Both juniors went to Mitchell High in Trinity last year, but because of overcrowding, the Pasco County School district rezoned some neighborhoods to move to River Ridge in New Port Richey.
“I was just not in the mood to make more friends and keep leaving them behind. But I eventually sucked it up and accepted it,” said Thurber.
Rezoning was a long contentious process, involving several schools all over the county. Some families even sued the district. But in the end, the redistricting plans stuck.
“It’s not too bad. The parents made it seem worse than it really was,” said Hellman.
River Ridge’s staff did a lot of to make the newbies feel welcome. And made sure every kid coming already knew someone.
“We had some of our class leaders connect with kids and they had friendships built before they got here and so the transition seemed pretty smooth,” said Principal Dr. Toni Zetsche.
Mitchell and River Ridge are big rivals when it comes to sports, especially football. 5,000 people are expected when they meet Friday night at River River Ridge.
Some students now have allegiances to both sides.
“All my friends are trying to get me to sit on Mitchell’s side. But I’ll probably just hang out on this side. But I don’t know. It’s just weird,” said Thurber.
Not everyone who got rezoned ended up switching schools. Seniors at Mitchell were given the option to stay. And many who didn’t want to change were approved for school choice.
The school district says the redistricting has helped slow down growth at overcrowded schools.
And while there could be more rezoning in the years to come, there aren’t any plans for more changes just yet.