Committee makes recommendation for Albemarle school redistricting

A committee of Albemarle County parents and community members recommended that the county school division redistrict more than 200 students at three elementary schools next year.
The redistricting proposal shared with Superintendent Pam Moran on Monday would reduce enrollment at Greer Elementary— currently among the county’s most overcrowded schools— and bring more students to Woodbrook Elementary, where a 16-classroom addition is under construction.  
The committee recommended expanding the Woodbrook district to include the Granite Park Apartments, and nearby residences south of Solomon Road and Commonwealth Drive. This adjustment would move 113 Greer students to Woodbrook next year. 
In addition, 31 Greer students residing near Townwood Drive would be sent to Agnor-Hurt Elementary. These students would remain districted to attend Jack Jouett Middle School. Residences on Squirrel Path were left out of the committee’s final recommendation.
The recommendation also would move 72 Agnor-Hurt students to Woodbrook through the redistricting of the Branchlands and Minor Ridge neighborhoods, and homes along Rio Road between Pine Haven Court and Wakefield Road.
The recommendation from the Redistricting Advisory Committee will be supplemented by a written report, which will be shared at the county School Board’s Dec. 14 meeting. The School Board will hold a public hearing on the redistricting before voting on Moran’s recommendation in January.
“This is a key milestone in the process, but the redistricting study and the work is just moving on to the next step,” said Rosalyn Schmitt, director of planning and budget for the county schools. 
The 13-member Redistricting Advisory met six times this year and held a community meeting at Agnor-Hurt on Nov. 9. After the meeting, 319 people completed a survey to share their opinions of three proposed redistricting scenarios. 
Most survey respondents were dissatisfied with a scenario that would have moved 217 current Agnor-Hurt students to Woodbrook, and brought 138 students from Greer to Agnor-Hurt. Some parents said they were concerned by this scenario’s concentration of low-income students at Agnor-Hurt and Greer. 
Symia Tabron, the Burley Middle School representative on the Redistricting Advisory Committee, said recent immigrants and other residents of lower socioeconomic status may have been underrepresented in the survey and at the community meeting.
“Who is fighting for those families? That is my concern,” Tabron said. “So often, this part of our society never has a voice.”
Moran said that she and her staff would evaluate the committee’s recommendation and potentially make changes to ensure the redistricting was done equitably.
“Every child matters in this process, whether we have heard from their parents or not,” Moran said. “We want to be sure that every single child has been considered.”
More than 10 percent of community survey respondents called for the county to pursue a comprehensive redistricting study involving all of Albemarle’s schools. 
Sidney Griffin, an Equity and Diversity representative on the Redistricting Advisory Committee, said he wished Meriwether Lewis and Virginia L. Murray elementary schools could have been included in the current redistricting study. 

“We are looking at boundaries that already work pretty well for the [urban ring] schools,” Griffin said. “We should be redistricting at the periphery of the districts, not at the heart.”
The advisory committee previously had ruled out a scenario that would have sent some Greer students to Broadus-Wood Elementary.
Specifics about grandfathering families such that some students could finish in the schools they currently attend have yet to be determined. 
On Monday, several committee members said they wanted the School Board to change the county’s policy of not providing bus transportation for grandfathered students.