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Final draft of Jefferson redistricting plan sought

By Staff | Jan 16, 2017

Ogden Newspaper photo by Ron Agnir Joe Spurgas, of Shepherdstown, shares his frustration with the Board of Education over the redistricting process.

Jefferson County Board of Education officials want to know when the administration will be coming up with a solid, definitive redistricting plan.

Near the end of Monday night’s meeting the fifth BOE meeting held in the last three months – to discuss the proposed restricting plan, BOE President Scott Sudduth asked school Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson when she foresees providing the board a finished redistricting plan which the BOE can then access and vote on.

“At this point, I think we are just looking at scenarios,” Sudduth said. “This has to be the last modification. At some point the BOE has to take ownership of something.”

Board member Gary Kable agreed a final plan needed to be drafted quickly.

“This has to be the last or next to last modification,” Kable said. “We have to come to closure.”

At its Dec.19 meeting, board members requested Gibson and the 14-member school redistricting committee craft a handful of redistricting options that would help reduce the proposed 830 students to be shifted under the district plan starting in the 2017-18 school year.

Redistricting options to be developed by the committee include: shifting the Shepherdstown Elementary fifth grade class to Shepherdstown Middle School; removing five computer lab classrooms at Jefferson High; building a handful of portable class modules; increasing the district’s school capacity benchmark from 85 to 90 percent; redrawing its redistricting demarcation line along U.S. 340; and overhauling the district’s student transfer policy.

First outlined at the BOE meeting Nov. 28, the proposed redistricting plan would shift a specified number of students from schools determined to be in “high-growth” areas in the county to schools identified as having a “low-growth” rate.

If approved, the 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.

In a roughly 45 minute presentation Monday night, Gibson outlined several alternative redistricting options the board could consider to help reduce the number of students who would be shifted to another school under the redistricting plan.

Regardless of what plan the BOE finally approves, Sudduth said it will be revising the district’s student transfer separately.

“We want the public to know that we do intend to make a new transfer policy,” Sudduth said.

Gibson told the BOE the new redistricting options would be posted on the district website for residents to offer their comments, which then would be assessed and compiled for presentation at the Jan. 23 BOE meeting.

Meanwhile, a half dozen residents again voiced concerns and objections to the plan.

Shepherdstown resident Joe Spurgas chastized the board and administration for what he called a lack of vision in addressing the district’s long term development plans.

“I don’t think that we have gained anything, there is no vision here,” Spurgas said. “That’s your job. You’ve got to have a vision and a comprehensive plan. You are not working on it and you are not doing it.”

Ranson resident Lorraina Nathan told the BOE that Ranson Elementary School provides more than education to the town’s students.

“It’s not just a school, it’s a community school,” Nathan said. “Redistricting of Ranson will hamper parents from participating in school activities. Please keep this special community together.”