New Hanover Board of Education moves forward with redistricting plan

Redistricting, school calendar on agenda for New Hanover Board of Education

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After many months and a discussion full of fireworks, the New Hanover County school districts for the 2020-2021 school year have been determined.

The New Hanover County Schools redistricting committee presented its recommendation for middle and elementary schools redistricting to the board at the meeting, and the board proceeded to approve that plan — though not unanimously.

The goals of the redistricting plan included filling the new Porters Neck Elementary School, handling increased capacity at Blair and College Park Elementary schools and planning for future growth.

In its final meeting last month, the committed opted to recommend option 3-D.

Committee members said the final draft reduces crowding, balances diversity, streamlines feeder patterns, and impacts fewer students. While some maps moved up to 3,486 students, option 3d impacts 2,941 elementary and middle school students.

Community members disagree with the diversity portion, saying the plan only exacerbates the lack of diversity that they say already exists in many schools.

“It is not OK to create a plan that is separate segregated and patently unequal, without mitigating the factors that will be complicit into another cycle of systemic racism in our education system,” said education advocate Rebecca Trammel after the vote. “Some of our strongest advocate in this community have resoundingly condemned 3-D, and I am not sure what they would’ve come up with, but they could’ve tried one more time.”

Board members Stefanie Adams and Judy Justice voted against the recommendation.

Adams said she came into the meeting thinking she would approve it, but after a dozen parents and stakeholders spoke about their concerns regarding diversity, she thought the board needed to spend more time on the topic.

Board member Nelson Beaulieu said the concerns have caused him no shortage of heartburn, but after spending time with the maps, he doesn’t see any other path forward.

“The reality of living in Wilmington North Carolina is we are segregated community." Beaulieu said. "The school system is short on buses and that committee worked to fulfill every guiding principle, and we as a committee really strived to meet all of those goals as best we could. I felt like the maps that we had were absolutely the best that we could do.”

Beaulieu said the board is committed to addressing the concerns aired at the meeting.

“This is not the end of the conversation. Every school needs to be a successful school, the boards energies are bent in that direction," he said. "As a board member that’s my goal every day when I wake up, every day when I go to bed, I want every school to be successful, and this is not the end. This is the beginning. We are going to work with those families, we’re going to work with those communities, and we’re going to make sure that every single child in New Hanover County excels.”

Trammel said she isn’t convinced.

“We have been given absolutely no promise, absolutely no commitment from this board that we are going to not let these schools fail again,” she said. “With 100% certainty, if we continue to do the same thing over and over again, we’re going to get the same results.”

Calendar

As far as the schedule for those school districts, the board opted to again postpone a decision on changing the school calendar, this time until January.

The discussion has focused on starting the school year two weeks earlier than usual.

A survey of more than 5,000 people found that 63 percent of the respondents liked the idea of having the first semester finish before Christmas break and school letting out for the summer by Memorial Day.

But some people representing the tourism industry said the calendar change would be detrimental to local businesses that are in their peak season in the month of August.

After some heated discussion, school board members seemed to agree that changing the calendar was still in the best interest of the students, but they wanted to take the time to implement this change correctly.

Deputy Superintendent LaChawn Smith was supposed to present a traditional calendar for consideration at Tuesday night’s board meeting, but the board decided to wait to allow for more time to investigate the issue.

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