EAGLE LAKE - The Polk County School Board voted 4-3 Tuesday evening to rezone a portion of southeast Winter Haven, a decision that will send 91 Chain of Lakes Elementary School students to nearby schools when the school year starts.

The decision is an attempt to alleviate overcrowding at Chain of Lakes, which will have 784 students after rezoning. Of the 91 students changing schools, 19 will be sent to Pinewood Elementary and 72 to Snively Elementary.

Chain of Lakes is a little more than two years old and has a capacity of 714, according to Steven Negley. Negley, a pastor, attended the public hearing at Lake Region High School along with other members of the School Advisory Committee, a group of people who live in the community surrounding Chain of Lakes.

Negley urged the board to reduce the size of the school even further.

"Six new subdivisions are planned for the area," Negley said. "Tonight's rezoning decision would just start to alleviate the overcrowding."

Speaking in opposition to the rezoning decision was Gail Knight, whose fourth-grade son has been sent to three different schools in as many years because of zoning changes.

After moving about two miles away from Elwood Elementary School, where her son first began school, Knight was told her son must attend Chain of Lakes. After the latest rezoning takes effect, her son will attend Snively Elementary.

"Snively is closer," said Knight. "But he hasn't had stability in three years."

Bill Lockhart, a teacher at Chain of Lakes, consoled Knight after the meeting, telling her that he didn't want the school to lose her child. But he said he agrees that overcrowding at the school has gotten out of control.

"Our baseball field is a portable city," he said. "A speech teacher was using a storage room to teach in."

Board members listened to comments from the audience and debated the merits of rezoning at length before making a decision.

"With the price of fuel we have to take a long, hard look at bussing kids five or ten miles to go to school," said School Board member Frank O'Reilly, who voted against rezoning. "We're destructing neighborhoods and uprooting parents."

O'Reilly's comments drew cheers from attendees, who numbered about 40.

Board members Brenda Reddout and Kay Fields also voted against rezoning.

"We need to come back to the table with some other concepts," Reddout said. "I think this is a perfect instance for year-round schooling."

Board member Tim Harris voted for rezoning, but said growth in the area will be a continuing problem. He expects the board to make larger rezoning decisions in the near future.

"I'll make the motion to proceed (with the vote) with the understanding that we'll be back here in a few years," Harris said.