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Redistricting will move 1,000 students

By Rose Laudicina
Staff Writer

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education knows reassigning students from one school to another within the district – a practice known as redistricting – is not an easy task, and often ends up upsetting a lot of families.

The board is warning families now to prepare for the chance that the elementary school their children attend during the 2012-13 school year might not be the same school they will attend in 2013-14.

“What we are really wanting is that people are aware of what is going on [with redistricting],” board Chair Mia Burroughs said. “We cannot communicate too much on this.”

With elementary school 11, under construction in the Northside neighborhood, slated to open in August 2013, the district will be moving elementary school children to fill the new school and alleviate overcrowding in many of the district’s other schools.

At the school board’s Aug. 9 meeting, Todd LoFrese, assistant superintendent for support services, outlined the timeline and plan for redistricting, a process he said is already underway.

“We are going to be using the most current data as possible and taking into account district programs and student-achievement data,” LoFrese said.

A redistricting team has been formed to reassign more than 1,000 students in the district to new elementary schools.

According to LoFrese, the team is organizing and collecting data and reviewing various changes in the district, including changes in home values to ensure a balanced distribution of students from low-income households throughout the district.

Previously, the district relied on using data from those who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of North Carolina have since prevented the district from using this data in redistricting, meaning the team must acquire the most updated housing values to appropriately reassign students.

The school board’s newest member, James Barrett, said he felt the process doesn’t allow for enough community input.

“I wasn’t part of the board when the [redistricting] report was generated, but the process sounds similar to what got us in trouble with the dual-language conversation. … People didn’t feel heard,” Barrett said.

The redistricting process was revised in 2009, after Morris Grove Elementary School opened in 2008 – the last time the district went through a redistricting process. The board then recommended that the process be revised to streamline community involvement and add administrative functions to make it more accurate and efficient.

“What we as a board have learned over the past few redistrictings is it is an incredibly emotional process,” board member Mike Kelley said. “It consumes a very large amount of staff and parents’ time … but it impacts the quality of education a very small amount.”

The new redistricting process includes opportunities for public comment on three proposed plans – which the redistricting team has yet to formulate – through school-improvement teams and at two public hearings in December.

“All parents [whose kids are moved] are going to scream bloody murder, and I accept that,” board member Jamezetta Bedford said.

The redistricting team will make its first presentation at the board’s next meeting on Sept. 6 about recommendations for elementary school 11’s walk zone. At this meeting, the board will also continue to discuss the redistricting process and policy.

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