Controversy Over County's Redistricting Plan

By: Whitney Holmes
By: Whitney Holmes

Albemarle County plans to redistrict their school system in order to accommodate a new elementary school set to open in fall of 2007. This would uproot many students and is angering many families.

Parents, teachers, and students filled the auditorium at Albemarle County High School on Tuesday, Feb. 8, to share their concerns.

"If we were redistricted I would be leaving a lot of my friends here and I've just really liked this school and I don't really want to leave," said Kelsey McKechnie, a student at Murray Elementary School in Albemarle County.

Her complaint is just one major concern of the county's school redistricting plan. If the controversial plan, created by a 16-member redistricting committee appointed by the school board, is approved, it would mean a lot of uprooting. The plan would relocate graduated 5th graders to different middle schools and transfer Murray Elementary students to the new Southern Urban Elementary School, set to open in fall 2007. This forces many students to leave their friends behind.

"I think they will become social orphans," said PTO Vice President Susan wiener. "No one gets on the interstate to have a play date and my children live for play dates and sleepovers and I think it’s extremely important for their active and social development."

But the redistricting committee sees the situation differently.

"They can also make new friends and keep in touch with their old friends as well," said Diane Behrens, who sits on the committee.

The reason for the shuffle is to even out the school population as best as the committee can to accommodate the new school.

"What this committee is charged with doing is to balance the capacity with the projected enrollment and think about how to populate our schools," explained Behrens.

When doing this, they take into account housing development, transit, and also natural barriers that would interfere with students attending a certain school. It took the committee seven meetings to come up with this solution.

Parents of Murray Elementary don't think of the current plan is the best balancing act.

"They will have to expand the new Southern Elementary School in order to accommodate our children, while this school is left under capacity. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me," said Martha McKechnie, mother of Murray Student, Kelsey.

Many are glad the school feeder system is being addressed before there's a problem, but wonder if it's necessary since the county's last alignment was just three years ago.

The plan is not set in stone, however, and must go forward to the superintendent and then approved by school board before it is. The next meeting about the plan is set for Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

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