Published: Jan 22, 2013 12:00 AM
Modified: Jan 22, 2013 01:09 PM
CHAPEL HILL - A review of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools redistricting process will take place next school year, when administrators say they will have a clear picture of how the approved plan has panned out.
The decision to move about 1,000 elementary school students, mainly to fill the new Northside Elementary School, was reached after several months of deliberation. But several school board members criticized the process during Thursday’s 5-2 vote.
“We’re going to have a digestion and reflection of the process,” Chairwoman Michelle Brownstein said. She and board members Mike Kelley and James Barrett criticized various aspects of the planning process and the data used in creating the plans.
In the meantime, schools are moving forward to notify parents and students of their new school assignments, and to ease the transition to new schools through open-house events.
Families will be notified by mail of reassignment decisions by Feb. 1. Eligible families will receive instructions on how to exercise their option to stay at their current schools. Next year’s fifth-graders can remain at their current schools, though without school bus service. At Frank Porter Graham, upcoming fourth-graders may also stay, as FPG transitions into a magnet school for the Spanish-English dual language program. Students who stay at FPG are not guaranteed transportation either.
School registration will begin Feb. 4, and transfer applications will be made available that day. Administrators will wait to see how many of next year’s fifth-graders remain at their current schools before approving any transfers. Some students with individualized education plans will not be required to leave their current schools.
On March 19, elementary schools will host field trip visits for new students affected by the redistricting. The “welcome day” will include school tours, classroom activities and introductions by school principals. During April, schools will host follow-up orientation events.
Board vice-chairwoman Jamezetta Bedford noted that the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district has opened nine schools since 1994. “Each year the transition for our fragile populations as well as for all students [has] been an important part of planning,” she said. “Any time families experience difficulties we have social workers, administrators and teachers who are available to assist.”
No timetable has been set for a review of the redistricting process, which, Assistant Superintendent Todd LoFrese said, will be “a complete review of the process and results of this redistricting.”
This will include, LoFrese wrote, considering segment revisions (neighborhood groups assigned to various schools), reviewing how the plans were developed and how the redistricting advisory council functioned. It will also review the concerns mentioned by some parents.
After last week’s vote, several parents conferred outside the meeting room. They live in an area encompassing the Parkside and Larkspur neighborhoods, where many children will be moved from Seawell Elementary to the new Northside Elementary.
Two parents used optimization software to create a plan that would not move them and met with Superintendent Tom Forcella to discuss it. The plan was rejected for numerous reasons, including data on the district’s at-risk demographics that school officials said was absent or unreliable.
“They say, ‘You didn’t have that kind of data,’” said Qun Wan. “But they didn’t release it to us.”
“The process of creating these four plans was not transparent,” said John Ma, another parent who worked to develop the alternate plan.
Board member Kelley decried the lack of open process and not using optimization software in his remarks Thursday.