Balancing School Enrollment

Friends-

For many parents of students who attend schools within the urban ring, or in active development areas, the threat of constant micro-redistricting is real. The current policy of exploring redistricting every 3-5 years, two or three schools at a time has a massively disruptive impact on students, parents, and teachers alike. For students who become accustomed to a learning environment and are comfortable learning there, they could be at risk of being redistricted twice within a six- year period, throwing them into a new and confusing school environment that may take weeks or even months to grow used to. Parents also need to adjust to a new community of teachers, administrators, and other parents, and extracurricular activities such as sports teams are also affected.

Micro-redistricting is an aggravating and painful process for all involved. What makes it worse is that it can happen with such frequency. Redistricting will always be a necessary part of balancing enrollment among schools in development areas. However, the answer isn’t to go through the process as often as possible.

As a first step, we need to slow the pace of redistricting by extending the minimum renewal period for a redistricting study to six years for elementary schools: Enough time for a student to pass from Kindergarten through Fifth grade.

Next, for areas within the county’s growth plan the School Board must anticipate consistent enrollment growth across all schools within those areas. This will mean understanding the need for constant and regular infrastructure expansion projects that are able to stay ahead of the enrollment curve rather than constantly trying to catch up with it.

Thirdly, to make efforts to find a more permanent solution to balancing enrollment and overcrowding, I will also direct the Albemarle County Planning Commission to explore zoning, development, and redistricting reform to help us better spread the load of enrollment. This specific focus on development will allow greater balance of enrollment between schools and give enough time to allow for the 6-year cooldown period on elementary school redistricting. This will also allow for a regular pace of expansion projects. Through continued consideration of these three key items we can begin to even out the population pockets that create enrollment burdens on some schools but leave other schools significantly under- enrolled in comparison and make the redistricting process less disruptive to everyone involved.

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