NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County Schools’ redistricting committee held its second to last meeting to review the latest proposed maps for balancing the populations of the county’s elementary and middle schools.
The committee reviewed public input received at a hearing on September 17 with an eight page document outlining the feedback thus far. About 200 people attended the public information session and over 700 filled out an online survey, with more than half of those reporting to be families of Ogden (35.19%) or Parsley (25.5%) elementary schools.
They’re working with a private consulting firm hired by the school system to design a district map that will:
- Fill the new Porters Neck Elementary School opening 2020-2021
- Account for increased capacity at Blair and College Park Elementary schools
- Efficiently utilize all available space
- Plan for growth
The group is focused on “guiding principles” including moving as few students as possible, while utilizing all school space efficiently. They’re also committed to assigning students to the school closest to their home when possible while maintaining clear feeder patterns from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the firm presented a new district map option: “3C.” The latest map strives to keep some previously divided subdivisions together and also maintains a higher level of demographic diversity at Wrightsville Beach Elementary.
Several parents were in the audience Tuesday wearing matching shirts that read “Masonboro Forest for Neighborhood Schools.” They say many parents in their neighborhood are rallying together hoping to keep their children at Parsley Elementary School.
“We’re pretty frustrated because we have not had any options other than just to automatically be moved [to Holly Tree Elementary] in all seven options that have come out and the different iterations of those, so we’re frustrated,” said Brenda Cribb. “A couple of us have been to every meeting, every school board meeting, we’ve written a lot of emails, we’ve provided a lot of feedback in the survey that’s been put out. So, we have put a lot of effort into it and we’re trying to be heard.”
Option 3-C also splits the feeder pattern of Holly Tree Elementary School, which Heather Hetzell called a “double whammy” to Masonboro Forest. It would send some students to Myrtle Grove middle and some to Roland Grise middle.
“Honestly, we’ve even thought about moving. It is very frustrating, I don’t mean to sound bad when I say that home values do increase or decrease upon where you live and a lot of our neighbors have bought into our neighborhood because we are in, honestly, one of the best school districts in New Hanover County," said Heather Hetzell. "It’s like number ten in the state. So, we made those choices before we had children, to move into Masonboro Forest and now we feel like it’s getting yanked from us.”
Redistricting consultant Matthew Cropper says they can’t adhere to every individual request.
“We understand that every dot on the map and every number on the map is a student and a child and so we have that compassion for the process and understand that there are human beings behind these numbers but it’s important for us to stay focused on data and statistics and not allow that emotion to come into play, so with that said, although we are compassionate that we are moving children and communities are being impacted, something has to happen and moves have to occur to adhere to our objectives and do our job,” Cropper said.
Emma Jackson has been involved in New Hanover County redistricting processes for over twenty years. She says the process has become much more precise and mathematical over the years, but she still takes parents’ concerns seriously and says she reads all the feedback they receive.
“I think it’s important to hear what people have to say and their feelings, but I feel like if we use a professional judgement and try to do what we think is best -- best for the children that are involved -- that’s all we can do,” Jackson said.
The committee has it’s final public meeting on November 19, and will then present its recommendation to the school board on December 3, which has the final say.
New district lines are expected to take effect for the 2020-2021 school year.