Western Albemarle School Redistricting an Unpopular Topic

December 11, 2012

Redistricting is a touchy subject in western Albemarle County, as shown by a packed gymnasium in Meriwether Lewis Elementary School Tuesday night with parents sounding off on the subject.

"I don't see what is broken or needs fixing here at Meriwether Lewis," one concerned parent told a special subcommittee tasked with looking into redistricting option.

Many parents shared similar thoughts on the school's situation.

"Meriwether really is the only primary feeder school in the western feeder pattern that currently is over program capacity," said Craig Lindqvist, a member of the subcommittee and a Crozet Elementary parent.

Meriwether Lewis is overcapacity by about 50 students, but it's the beginning of a much larger problem facing Albemarle County Public Schools.

"I see projected growth in Crozet itself as being a significant problem going into the future," said Laura Henderson, a parent of a Brownsville Elementary student.

Over the next five years, four western Albemarle elementary schools are projected to be overcapacity. One option for next year would be to redistrict Meriwether Lewis students to get ahead of the problem.

"If there are more students at one school than the others, we want to try to balance that load in an efficient and effective way," Lindqvist said.

"You would be redistricting the historic home site of the very namesake of this school," another parent told the subcommittee. Explorer Meriwether Lewis was born in Ivy.

In a crowd of 200, more than 75 people signed up to share their thoughts. The school's Parent Teacher Organization presented a petition with 374 signatures against moving Meriwether Lewis students. Parents from the other potentially affected schools -- Crozet, Brownsville and Murray -- also shared redistricting doubts.

"Families that live closest to the school should be able to attend the school that is closest to their neighborhood," Henderson said.

Whatever the committee recommends to the superintendent in January -- either to keep a holding pattern or to redistrict -- the issue is far from over.

"In the next couple years, this process is going to happen again, so it's a continuing issue we're going to have to face," Lindqvist said.

Ultimately, the decision lies with the school board once the superintendent passes on her recommendation. Whatever decision the school board makes in the spring will take effect for the 2013-2014 school year.

For those who were not able to attend the meeting but would still like to share thoughts, the county has put up an online survey.

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