Time for public comment on school redistricting
By Kathy Chaffin
People affected by the proposed changes in high school district lines as part of a redistricting plan being considered by the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education will have a chance to speak out for or against it Monday.
The first public hearing on the proposed redistricting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Knox Middle School auditorium. Those who wish to speak will be asked to write their names on a sign-up sheet beforehand and limit their comments to three minutes.
Dr. Jim Emerson, board chairman, recommended at an Oct. 12 work session that the public hearing be closed after 90 minutes. A second public hearing is scheduled for the following Monday, Nov. 9, at 6 p.m. in the Southeast Middle School gymnasium.
If at the end of that public hearing, everyone who wants to speak has not had an opportunity to do so, Emerson said another hearing will be scheduled.
The proposed redistricting plan would change district lines for all of the high schools except Salisbury. The map outlining the plan was one of three submitted to the board by its Redistricting Committee, composed of Bryce Beard, Karen South Carpenter and Vice Chairwoman W. Jean Kennedy.
The map, identified as Map No. 2, was amended to adjust district lines that would have split neighborhoods, and is now referred to as Map No. 2-A.
Carpenter, spokesperson for the committee, said board members will not be responding to comments at the hearing.
“That’s not how these things work,” she said. “We’ll be sitting there listening, and I’ll be taking notes. I’m sure everyone else will be, too.”
Board members want to hear from people about any concerns they may have, Carpenter said, along with their ideas on alternative plans.
“Not that we’ll be able to use them,” she said, “but you never know. When people come and talk to us, we do listen.”
Beard announced at the board’s Oct. 26 meeting that the majority of the seven members do not plan to approve a redistricting plan that would affect any student currently in any of the high schools. He said he wanted people to know that up front.
One of the concerns he said he has heard is that students have been afraid to order class rings because they could be transferred to another high school. That’s not going to happen, he said.
Beard said information on the proposed redistricting is being related from person to person to person and, like gossip, gets further and further from the truth.
“What they really need to do is read the minutes of the meetings,” he said.
If board members decide to approve a redistricting plan effective with the 2010-11 school year, Gene Miller, assistant superintendent for operations, has suggested they might want to allow then-juniors and seniors to remain under a grandfather clause or postpone it another year with the same grandfather clause, which would mean no current high school students would be affected.
One of Beard’s main concerns with any redistricting plan is that communities not be split between two high schools.
“That’s the most important thing in Rowan County,” he said. “It’s not distance.”
Large maps showing changes in district lines under the proposed redistricting plan are available for public viewing at all six high schools, the school system’s administrative offices at 110 N. Long St. in East Spencer and 314 N. Ellis St. in Salisbury and at the system’s Transportation Department at 2724 Old Concord Road. Maps are also available at Rowan Public Library headquarters in Salisbury and at the East and South branches.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.