CHAPEL HILL — Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board members are leaning toward a redistricting plan that moves 1,045 students and keeps from overloading the new Northside Elementary with at-risk students.
The board reviewed four plans for elementary school rezoning and two for a smaller high school rezoning Thursday night. Members Jamezetta Bedford, Mia Day Burroughs and Greg McElveen supported the district’s second plan, which spreads socioeconomically disadvantaged students evenly across the district’s schools.
“We use these numbers to ensure some type of equitable balance among all the schools so that all schools have the chance to be excellent,” McElveen said.
The board will select a plan Jan. 17. No consensus was reached on the high school plans, both of which would move about 150 students from Carrboro High School to ease overcrowding there.
The elementary school task, and at-risk numbers, dominated the conversation.
Data on free and reduced-cost school meals, formerly supplied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and used to count low-income households in the district, was unavailable this year. The USDA determined that using such data violates students’ privacy.
Studies have correlated poverty and school underachievement.
“Students in schools where there is a high population of students that live in poverty are not as successful and do not have as much of an opportunity to grow academically,” board member Annetta Streater said.
Burroughs, the chairwoman, agreed. “My belief is that you spiral,” she said. “If a school is out of balance, it will tend to get more unbalanced.”
The board split on whether to consider alternative plans submitted by community groups.
A group of statisticians and engineers, most of them parents from Parkside and nearby neighborhoods who objected to moving their children from Seawell to Northside elementary schools – a move included in the plan most board members backed Thursday – had submitted a plan they said used software to create a better solution.
“We appreciate that the administration team has worked hard to create four final draft plans. Sadly, all the four plans have significant limitations,” one of the plan’s creators, John Ma, told the board.
Board members Mike Kelley and James Barrett suggested that district staff consider some of the placements included in that plan, but board member Michelle Brownstein warned against delaying the process.
“The reality is, we have to make a decision on January 17. Everything is dependent on that,” she said. “We have kindergarten registration, we have dual language, we have a lot of staff we need to hire.”
What was the point of soliciting community input, Barrett asked, “if we’re going to be so closed-minded that we say this is the only choice that we have?”
Brownstein said if she could go back in time to when the redistricting process began, she might make some changes. But, she said, “that exercise is not as helpful at this stage in the game.”