Published: Aug 10, 2012 02:55 PM
Modified: Aug 11, 2012 04:17 PM
CHAPEL HILL - A complicated, transformative redistricting of Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s school zones could end up moving one-third of elementary school students to different schools in the 2013-14 school year.
A new elementary school under construction in the Northside neighborhood will necessitate the redistricting, a thorny process that school board and staff members concede will leave few parents happy.
“They’re all going to scream bloody murder. I accept that,” said Jamezetta Bedford, who participated in a previous redistricting made necessary by the addition of Morris Grove Elementary School in 2008.
Few parents like to learn their child will have to change schools.
“Politically, there’s no way to soften redistricting,” Bedford said.
Steve Scroggs, former assistant superintendent, is consulting on the project, which will dominate the energy and attention of some staffers for the next several months.
“It actually is a delightful problem,” Scroggs said. “In Chapel Hill-Carrboro, nobody wants to leave the school they’re in.”
At a Board of Education work session Thursday, board members, staff and administrators discussed the upcoming process, and of how to sell the necessary changes to parents.
“I’m sure there will be plenty of angry people and a lot of heat generated,” board member James Barrett said.
Balancing school populations, student achievement levels, socioeconomic factors and geography will be challenging enough. In the past, figures for free and reduced lunch recipients were used to assess socioeconomic status. The USDA recently decided that this information is private and cannot be used as a measuring tool.
Scroggs said this has robbed the redistricting committee of valuable statistics, and that school achievement is a completely unreliable measure of socioeconomic status.
District staff will use a software matrix to determine which neighborhoods will be affected. The Northside elementary school is scheduled to open in time for the 2013-14 school year.
Amy Rickard, principal of Morris Grove Elementary School, served on the previous redistricting committee and concurred with Bedford’s assessments after the discussion had finished.
“It’s very complicated. There are just so many variables that the district has to look at,” Rickard said.
“As a principal, we appreciate that there’s a committee, because as a principal it’s hard to look at all your families and all your people in your school objectively,” Rickard said.
Scroggs said present-day factors, like the recent decision to transform Frank Porter Graham Elementary into a Spanish-English magnet school, will make this redistricting more complicated than previous ones: “We’ve never done a redistricting with a magnet school,” he said.