Published: Dec 08, 2012 05:42 PM
Modified: Dec 08, 2012 05:44 PM
Parents gathered on Monday before the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education to react to draft plans redrawing elementary school attendance maps.
And their reaction was, in large measure, unfavorable.
“We are very fortunate that we have a district where no one wants to leave the school they attend…it speaks incredibly highly of our staff and our principals, but it makes this an incredibly difficult process,” Board of Education chairwoman Mia Day Burroughs told the gathered parents.
The large elementary redistricting project will move hundreds of children out of Frank Porter Graham to make room for students participating in the district’s dual language programs, which will be sited in that school.
It will also carve new zones of attendance for Northside Elementary School, which will ease overcrowding at other schools when it opens next fall.
“Our district continues to grow,” assistant superintendent Todd LoFrese told about 180 community members gathered at the forum in Carrboro High School’s auditorium. “As a result, the majority of our elementary schools are crowded, and some are extremely over-capacity.”
Many from the Parkside neighborhood and surrounding areas – a segment identified on district maps as 74A – objected to three of the four draft plans that would move more than 230 children from the northern part of town past three closer elementary schools to the new Northside elementary near downtown Chapel Hill.
The children of 74A would move away from Seawell Elementary, where they now go. At least 60 parents from the neighborhood attended the meeting to show support for Plan 4, the only draft plan that does not move their children to Northside.
Parents from segment 74A object to the commute to Northside, saying it is a wasteful use of fuel when three schools are closer. Some accused the district of poaching their neighborhood’s high test scores to boost achievement at Northside.
“Our son begged us not to change schools,” parent Su Dong said. “While I understand redistricting has to happen, I strongly object to plans 1, 2 and 3.”
“I think clearly the majority of our neighbors are very upset about the passing of our kids to a remote school,” parent Huina Chen said. Her two children go to Glenwood Elementary, but she came to Monday’s meeting to show solidarity with her neighbors.
“It’s a very environmentally friendly town, so wasting so much fuel to bus kids there, I don’t think it makes much sense,” Chen said.
Parents from other areas affected under one or more of the draft plans also expressed their objections. A group living in Segment 60 objected to their removal from Seawell’s attendance zone. Others affected by a small change in Carrboro High School’s attendance map registered their complaints.
The group from 74A made the largest turnout. Parent Aileen Zhu noted the area has a large Asian-American population, and said she liked Seawell Elementary because the school has a long history with the Asian-American community.
Zhu said she would not be upset if her child was moved to Morris Grove or Estes Hills, two schools closer than Northside.
The new maps are designed to meet four criteria: even distribution of socioeconomic levels and student achievement across schools, reduced busing and transportation times, and moving as few students as possible.
A redistricting advisory council met four times in November and provided administrators with feedback and suggestions for change. Four finalized plans will be presented to the board on Dec. 20. The board will vote to select its plan in January.
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