Over 100 Albemarle County parents attended a community meeting Wednesday to share their thoughts on a potential redistricting of students in three of the county’s urban ring elementary schools.
A 13-member Redistricting Advisory Committee convened by the School Board has met four times this year to address current and projected overcrowding at Agnor-Hurt, Greer, and Woodbrook elementary schools and consider middle school student assignments based upon changes to elementary boundaries.
Rosalyn Schmitt, assistant director of facilities planning for the county schools, said the new attendance areas should meet the needs of the elementary schools for three to five years, at least.
“While we can’t guarantee it, the goal is to make a long-term solution,” she said.
The upcoming redistricting is expected to send more students to Woodbrook Elementary next year. Construction on a 16-classroom addition to the school, funded by the 2016 bond referendum, is currently underway.
The redistricting also is expected to draw students away from Greer Elementary, where enrollment has exceeded the school building’s capacity by about 80 students this year.
At Agnor-Hurt on Wednesday, school division staff presented three possible redistricting scenarios being considered by the advisory committee. Schmitt said the scenarios were not finalized recommendations, but a starting point to gather community feedback.
“Scenario A” would move 138 students from Greer to Agnor-Hurt and 217 students from Agnor-Hurt to Woodbrook. Students who live in the areas of Townwood and Squirrel Path, Turtle Creek, Landmark at Granite Park, and East Rio Road would be affected.
Several parents at the meeting objected to Scenario A because it would further concentrate economically disadvantaged students and English Language Learners at Agnor-Hurt and Greer.
In this scenario, Agnor-Hurt’s economically disadvantaged population would increase from 56 percent to 72 percent of its enrollment next year, while Woodbrook’s would shrink from 55 percent to 49 percent.
“Scenario A would be highly disruptive to equity in our schools,” said Agnor-Hurt parent Sheri Edgecomb.
“Scenario B” would move 104 Greer students who now live in the areas of Turtle Creek and Landmark at Granite Park to Woodbrook. Also under discussion is moving 48 Greer students who live north of Lambs Road to Broadus Wood Elementary.
Greer parent Jennifer Greene said redistricting her daughter to Broadus Wood would dramatically increase the length of her bus ride to school. Greene said this would also limit her ability to volunteer at her daughter’s school. “It may seem like this great solution, but it’s not,” she said.
“I think it’s important to remember that we [at Greer] love our school too,” Greene added. “We love our teachers. … We would love to stay there. I think that’s getting lost in this discussion.”
“Scenario C” would relocate 34 Greer students to Agnor-Hurt; 104 Greer students to Woodbrook; and 72 Agnor-Hurt students to Woodbrook. This scenario would affect students who live in the areas of Townwood/Squirrel Path, Turtle Creek, Landmark at Granite Park, Minor Ridge, Rio Wakefield to Pine Haven, and Branchlands.
In public comments at the meeting, several Agnor-Hurt parents said their school should be exempted from the redistricting because its current enrollment does not exceed its capacity.
April Wang pointed out that Agnor-Hurt was affected by the county’s most recent redistricting, which moved nearly 100 students to Broadus Wood, Greer and Woodbrook in 2013.
“We are just getting back on our feet,” she said. “Our math scores are improving. Our reading scores are improving. We are thriving.”
Some parents said redistricting could be especially disruptive for students participating in multiage learning programs at Agnor-Hurt and Woodbrook.
Albemarle’s multiage classes in elementary schools are designed to keep students with the same teachers for up to three years. Students repeat some units that increase in depth and complexity from year to year.
Specifics about grandfathering families such that some students could finish in the schools they currently attend have yet to be determined.
“You have to be [in the multiage program] for three years,” said Agnor-Hurt parent Laura Jones. “You have to go through the cycle.”
Agnor-Hurt parent Fred Telegdy said he strongly favored Scenario C if Agnor-Hurt had to be included in the redistricting, because it would result in the most even distribution of economically disadvantaged students and students of color.
Telegdy questioned the School Board’s charge to the Redistricting Advisory Committee to make each school’s attendance area mostly contiguous, as in Scenario A. He said Agnor-Hurt has benefitted from high parental involvement even though its attendance area is split into two parts by Rio Road.
“Scenario A has no added benefit… beyond how it looks on a map,” he said.
Laura Strauss said Albemarle County should initiate a comprehensive redistricting study involving all county schools to bring about greater equity. “Geographic boundaries are not as important as achieving fair and equitable boundaries for all of our children,” she said.
The Redistricting Advisory Committee will meet again on Monday and will make its final recommendation on Nov. 27. The meetings will begin at 6 p.m. in the Agnor-Hurt Elementary media center, and are open to the public for observation only.