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School board discusses redistricting plans

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education will consider a recommended high school redistricting plan at a work session on Monday, Oct. 12.
While the session will be open to the public, Chairman Dr. Jim Emerson said public input will not be allowed at that point. The work session will be held at 5 p.m. in the auditorium of the school system’s administrative offices at 110 N. Long St., East Spencer.
Karen South Carpenter, who headed up a Redistricting Committee which also included Bryce Beard and Vice Chairperson W. Jean Kennedy, requested that the session be advertised so that the board members could vote on a recommended plan if ready to do so.
At one point during the discussion at Monday evening’s board meeting, Linda Freeze wanted to know if the board had decided to redistrict.
Emerson responded, “I don’t know if we’ve decided that.”
Beard said the work session would give the board time to study the recommended plan along with two others submitted with it.
Patty Williams said the maps distributed at Monday’s meeting don’t include specific street and road names and that she wouldn’t know what to tell parents who call and want to know what district they would be in.
Once board members agree on a redistricting plan, Emerson said they can consider public input. “The plan’s got to come first,” he said, “because nobody will even know what to gripe about until we get the plan.”
Board members seemed in agreement that redistricting is inevitable at some point, but that the question is: When?
“I would say last year,” Carpenter said, “but that’s just me.”
Emerson responded, “Eventually, we’re going to have to redistrict.”
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said a redistricting plan would have to be in place by January to go into effect with the 2010-2011 school year.
Gene Miller, assistant superintendent for operations, said the plan would only affect this year’s freshmen if the board opted to grandfather in the rising juniors and seniors. If the board waited until the 2011-2012 school year to implement the plan and grandfathered the juniors and seniors, he said none of the students currently at the high schools would be affected.
The plan being recommended by the Redistricting Committee would put utilization of all six high schools between 80 and 87 percent. Percentages by school would be as follows: East, North and Salisbury, 87 percent; Carson, 82 percent; South, 86 percent; and West, 80 percent.
Though none of the high schools are presently above capacity, the redistricting study stemmed from growing concern about the decreasing enrollment at North Rowan High School.
This has led to the facility being underutilized and the school’s athletic team being moved from a 2A to a 1A conference beginning this school year.
Miller said West and Carson are presently the fastest growing high school districts in the county.
The Country Club and Country Club Hills sections would remain in the Salisbury High district under the recommended plan, but Crescent and Hidden Creek, located across Jake Alexander Boulevard North, would be moved to the North district.
Miller presented the plan to the board. Kathy Austin, who works with the system’s transportation department and knows the numbers better than anyone in the county, Miller said, was on hand to answer questions along with Tom Cook of OR/ED (Operations Research and Education Laboratory.
OR/ED is an educational consulting company from N.C. State University which uses mathematical techniques and state-of-the-art Decision Science applications to assist school districts dealing with difficult school reassignments.
Miller said the three plans being presented to the board were chosen by the committee for consideration from 40 to 50 scenarios developed by OR/ED.
Under the first plan, the Salisbury High district would lose Country Club, Country Club Hills, Crescent and Hidden Creek to North.
“North’s problem would become Salisbury’s problem,” Carpenter said.
Taking the more affluent neighborhoods out of the Salisbury district would create an equity issue, she said, giving Salisbury, for example, a much higher number of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches.
The second plan would leave the Salisbury High district intact, but change the lines for the other five high schools.
“That’s not right either,” Carpenter said. “If we’re going to do this correctly, everybody needs to be a part of it.”
The third and recommended plan maintains the integrity of the Salisbury High district, she said, while also addressing the underutilization issue at North and the capacity issues at all the high schools.
Kay Wright Norman wanted to know if the study addressed the K-8 enrollment in the system. Otherwise, she said the board might have to redistrict again several years down the road.
Miller said he and OP/ED officials not only looked at enrollments in all the grades, but talked with all the municipalities in the county about projected growth along with the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission and the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Kennedy said she accompanied them to meet with Granite Quarry officials and said they asked about all the new buildings in town.
“A lot of data has been put into what they have done,” she said. “It’s data-driven all the way.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.

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