Overcrowding at two schools has led the Albemarle County School Board to initiate the formation of a redistricting committee.
At its meeting Thursday, the board debated the scope of a redistricting study and whether other schools throughout the county should be considered for changes.
“Staff’s recommendation is for a focused study on Greer Elementary and Albemarle High School,” said Rosalyn Schmitt, the school division’s assistant director of facilities planning. “There are other issues at other schools, but none of these issues are as urgent or need to be addressed at this time.”
Schmitt told the board that in five years Greer Elementary is projected to be 89 students over capacity and Albemarle High School is projected to be 223 students over capacity. Both schools already have been expanded in recent years and have current enrollments of 581 and 1,930 students, respectively.
Over the past year, the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee has been urging that a comprehensive redistricting study be done. That idea was tabled by the board late last year, and, as a result, staff narrowed the scope of work for this redistricting effort.
While six of seven board members supported the formation of the committee Thursday, members continued to raise concerns about the process brought up at previous meetings.
Board members Pam Moynihan and Ned Gallaway supported a more comprehensive study that would allow the committee to consider attendance boundary changes at all schools.
“This growth in the north is going to affect the entire county,” Moynihan said. “We are going to have to move children to places where there are seats … which is why I have constantly asked for us to at least make it known that we may need to look at other places in the county.”
“I would like to see [the committee] have the option to look at every school,” Moynihan said.
Board members Steve Koleszar and Eric Strucko called for construction of new school capacity, particularly an addition at Woodbrook Elementary. That project is not funded in the next five years of the capital budget.
“In the five-year timeframe, we obviously need additional capacity,” Koleszar said. “The Board of Supervisors … is seriously looking at a bond referendum that would allow us to address those serious capacity needs that we have.”
School staff encouraged the board to keep a focus on Greer and AHS while continuing to study how growth in the northern feeder pattern might impact future additions at the other two comprehensive high schools and Woodbrook.
“What we are really focusing in on right now are those things that can’t wait for that addition [at Woodbrook],” said Dean Tistadt, the school division’s chief operating officer. “When that’s going to occur is certainly unknown at this point in time.”
Strucko was the lone vote against the proposal. Strucko sought a very narrow charge for the committee’s work and he advocated for fast-tracking construction of new school capacity in northern Albemarle.
“I am against this,” Strucko said. “I don’t want to disrupt the entire county and put all kinds of households and families through anxieties unnecessarily. Why disrupt stable districts?”
The School Board modified the staff recommendation to empower the committee to come back to the board if it thought other schools needed to be added to the list specifically to solve overcrowding at Greer and AHS.
The other schools on the list to be evaluated are: Monticello and Western Albemarle High schools; Burley, Henley, Jack Jouett and Sutherland Middle schools; and Agnor-Hurt, Broadus Wood, Murray, Stony Point and Woodbrook elementaries.
Superintendent Pam Moran will appoint the members of the redistricting committee, which will include two volunteers from each of the division’s three feeder patterns. Also on the committee will be a member of the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee and an equity and diversity representative.
Community members can sign up online to volunteer for the committee beginning Tuesday at www.k12albemarle.org/redistricting. Registrations will close at noon April 15.
The advisory committee will begin meeting in May, hold community meetings in May and June and present recommendations in the fall. Moran is expected to make her recommendations to the School Board in October.
The School Board would hold a public hearing in November before adopting a redistricting plan for the 2016-17 school year.