Published: Nov 28, 2012 12:11 PM
Modified: Dec 04, 2012 07:02 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Residents of several northern Chapel Hill neighborhoods are mobilizing to shoot down draft redistricting plans that would move 300 students from Seawell Elementary school to the new, and farther away, Northside Elementary.
“A blatant gerrymander,” Seawell School Improvement Team leader Tina CoyneSmith called the draft plan.
The proposal would move students under lines being drawn for the district’s 11 elementary school attendance zone. The affected neighborhoods include Parkside, Old Larkspur Road and nearby neighborhoods north of Seawell, between Eubanks and Homestead roads, and east of N.C. 86.
“We are very upset,” parent Su Dong said at the first meeting of the district’s redistricting advisory committee.
“We are here,” she said, pointing to the little green spot on a map surrounded by a sea of yellow representing the Seawell school zone, and colors representing zones for Morris Grove and Estes Hills elementary schools.
“They are moving us all the way across town,” Dong continued. “We lost our home school.”
The committee meets again at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26, at Carrboro High School in the school commons. It will review and recommend changes with an aim to maintaining socioeconomic parity, neighborhood walkability, transportation logistics and supportable student populations.
This complicated balancing act is being undertaken using software developed at N.C. State to aid school redistricting efforts. Former assistant superintendent Steve Scroggs is redrawing the lines.
“It’s really important for parents in this town to have a say,” Scroggs said. Noting that satisfaction with the district’s schools is high, Scroggs added, “They love where they’re at now. What a wonderful problem to have.”800 could move
The school system’s comprehensive redistricting of all elementary students (at least 800 will likely change schools, administrators have said) aims to populate Northside, the school being built off Caldwell Street next to downtown to ease overcrowding issues at other elementary schools.
Of these, Seawell has the worst overcrowding – about 200 students over capacity.
“Everyone works better when they’re not operating under crowded conditions,” said Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese.
“It’s also important that parents know these are draft plans; they are not decisions at this point,” LoFrese said.
The four draft plans will be reviewed by the advisory committee and, pending revision, submitted to the Board of Education, which will vote on a final plan Jan. 17.
The advisory council is composed of two parents from every elementary school in the district, and two parents from Carrboro High School, whose school zone will be redrawn with many fewer students being affected.
Residents of the Parkside, Old Larkspur and Riggsbee neighborhoods object to longer commutes to Northside through back roads or downtown streets, the fact that the neighborhoods have had a long history and shared proximity with Seawell, and that three elementary schools other than Seawell are closer to their neighborhood than Northside.
“At the end of the day, Seawell needs to lose 200 kids,” said CoyneSmith, whose child would be relocated. “These plans took the easy solution of moving one segment of 200 kids out of their neighborhood school, past three closer schools.”
Parents of the neighborhoods are planning to work through Seawell’s School Improvement Team to demand an overhaul of the draft plans before they are considered for adoption.