Crowd criticizes Chapel Hill-Carrboro school redistricting plans

CORRESPONDENTDecember 13, 2012 

— A wide array of criticism greeted Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board members Wednesday night at a public hearing on redistricting plans.

Members of the Parkside and Larkspur neighborhoods, vocal about their children’s possible move from Seawell Elementary to the new Northside Elementary at a similar hearing last week, again turned out.

But so did many parents who oppose the plan that Parkside residents support, Plan 4 (amended as “Plan 4.1”). These speakers expressed concern over the number of underprivileged students that could attend Northside. Under plans 3 and 4, at least 36 percent of Northside’s student body would be children whose socioeconomic status labels them at-risk.

“On both plans, Northside has the highest at-risk percentage. A brand new school should not be put in the position where it has the highest at-risk percentage,” Karen Patillo told the board.

Exact data on socioeconomically disadvantaged students has been difficult to obtain for school officials. At least one parent raised the issue at Wednesday’s meeting, noting that the demographics were estimates made with the help of counselors at each school.

Another speaker, Ellen Parker, said she too opposed a redistricting plan that would put such a high number of at-risk students at Northside. “When you load a classroom with at-risk students, you lower the chances of best serving those at-risk students,” Parker said.

Speakers represented a wide variety of priorities and viewpoints. Many advocated strongly for or against one or more of the four basic plans on the table.

Melanie Safir, who lives on Hillcrest Road, told the board she was dismayed to see that her children would have to be driven or be bused to Seawell when they can walk a short way along a bike path to Carrboro Elementary. “I rarely if ever drive my kids anywhere. It is much better for their health, emotional and physical, to walk,” she said.

Jesse Safir, her husband, echoed her frustration. “There’s this overpopulation at Seawell,” he said. “They’re moving kids out of there so that they can bus ours there?”

Jay Zaragoza, whose grandchildren go to Frank Porter Graham Elementary, expressed his hope that the board would reverse its decision to make that school a magnet for students in the Spanish/English dual language program. Moving FPG’s students out to make room for dual language classes is another priority of redistricting.

Joanne Promislow was looking at the redistricting maps with her young son, and told the board her 10-year-old thought it was silly to see their neighborhood colored differently than the other neighborhoods nearby: colored green, representing the Northside school zone.

“Segment 74A really sticks out like a sore thumb in plans 1 through 3,” Promislow said.

The board will discuss the plans on Thursday, Dec. 20. A vote on a redistricting plan is scheduled for Jan. 17.

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