The people who serve on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education campaigned hard to win their seats.
Some of them may be thinking these days that they should have been more careful what they wished for.
The schools are in the midst of formulating a redistricting plan, necessitated in part by the opening of the newest elementary school, Northside, and in part by the school board’s decision earlier this year to turn Frank Porter Graham Elementary into a dual-language magnet school, which means hundreds of kids who now go to FPG will have to go somewhere else.
The school board has the unenviable task of choosing which among four options to implement. The options reflect the district’s best attempts to balance varying and sometimes competing goals. None of the alternatives is perfect. No matter what the board does, some families are going to be upset.
Redistricting proposals tend to trigger parents’ protective instincts, and almost always arouse intense debate. That is especially so here, where we are fortunate enough to live in a place where many parents are passionately devoted to the schools their children attend, and equally passionately opposed to any plan that would require their kids to switch schools, especially schools farther away from their homes.
In a pair of public input sessions over the last two weeks, wave after wave of parents have implored the school board to protect what they perceive to be their children’s best interests, frequently by choosing the plan that is least disruptive to them.
The biggest unified bloc of opposition comes from the Parkside/Larkspur area, labeled 74A on school maps. Draft plans 1 through 3 would move their kids from Seawell, where they now go, to Northside – leapfrogging over districts assigned to two or three closer schools; the color-coded maps of plans 1-3 show Northside’s district consisting of the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the school, plus the isolated island of 74A way off to the north.
On the other hand, Plan 4 – the one favored by the families in 74A – would result in a very high concentration of at-risk kids, 39 percent, in Northside. That strikes some parents and others as an unfair burden to put on a brand-new school just getting on its feet.
It is very easy for parents to feel unfairly targeted by this plan or that, and the parental imperative to protect your children from perceived threat can be blinding.
The school board, though, has to make its decision based on the best interests of the students throughout the entire district, not on the wishes of any individual neighborhood. The board is made up of smart and dedicated people who despite their best efforts are probably doomed to bitterly disappoint some of their constituents (or, more accurately, their constituents’ parents).
But in the end, children are remarkably adaptable, and we have every reason to believe that those who start the school year in a new school will very soon make themselves at home and in short order consider the new school their school.