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Residents voice concerns over student disruption from proposed school redistricting plan

By Staff | Dec 23, 2016

For the second time in four days, residents voiced their concerns about the possible impact the Jefferson County Schools’ proposed resdistricting plan will have on residents’ home values, the quality of their children’s education and their daily routine if the plan is passed in January.

Roughly100 residents attended the second public open forum at T.A. Lowery Elementary School on Monday to ask school officials questions, provide criticism and offer possible alternatives to the proposed redistricting plan. If passed, the plan would move 830 students to other school locations starting the 2017-18 school year.

First outlined at the Nov. 28 Board of Education meeting, the redistricting plan would shift students from fast-growing schools to ones growing at a slower rate.

The proposed plan would shift designated students from schools determined to be in “high-growth” areas in the county to schools identified as having a “low-growth” rate, Jefferson Schools Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson told residents at the Nov. 28 meeting.

The proposed plan would require shifting 341 elementary, 210 middle and 279 high school students to locations different from the one the student would be assigned under the district’s current geographically based plan.

Breckenridge resident Keith Johnson questioned whether the BOE has factored in the impact resdistricting could have on residential property values.

Johnson cited an unspecified published report which indicates property values of 578 homes in the Breckenridge and Shepherdstown sections will drop an estimated $25,000 in value if redistricting is approved.

Hans Fogle said he bought his Shepherdstown home under the assumption his children would go to school there. However, under resdistricting, he said they will shift over to T.A. Lowery Elementary School instead.

“My children will not be part of Shepherdstown for the next five years,” Fogle said. “I think we should have more conversations.”

Other residents questioned BOE redistricting plan data, claiming home-to-school distances in the plan are incorrect.

“The data shows that we’re five miles from the school, when in reality, we’re two miles,” said John Thornton. “Flawed data can lead to flawed maps, which can lead to flawed decision making.”

A handful of residents voiced concerns about potential time and cost hardships created in transferring their children to different school locations.

Amy James said shifting her children to T.A. Lowery from Shepherdstown Elementary School would double their bus ride time from 20 to 40 minutes.

Mya Brown, a Birch Hill resident, asked the BOE to consider grandfathering elementary and middle school students as they have already promised to do with high school students.

BOE Chairman Scott Sudduth told residents at Thursday’s forum that the board intends to grandfather all grade levels of high school students so current students in both Jefferson and Washington High schools will be able to graduate at their existing school.