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Jefferson County BOE approves redistricting plan

By Staff | Feb 17, 2017

Jefferson County Schools now has a redistricting plan.

Nearly three months after having first unveiled to the public, the board of education, by a 5-0 vote, approved a revised redistricting plan intended to balance out student capacity at the district’s 14 schools at the BOE meeting on Monday night.

The approved plan included one new amendment which excludes Patrick Henry Way from student redistricting.

“I don’t think anyone on this side of the dais enjoyed having to do this,” said BOE President Scott Sudduth. “But we have to address the school overcrowding issue and to keep the best quality schools. We think this plan achieves that, with the least amount of impact on the community.”

Sudduth acknowledged short sighted planning by the board in the past led to the school capacity problem.

“We on this board feel we are in this position because we did not keep an eye on this every two years,” Sudduth said.

First unveiled at the Nov. 29 BOE meeting, the plan has undergone several revisions and iterations, based both on public feedback at four board meetings and online, as well as redistricting conditions made by BOE members.

And while a few parents voiced objections to the plan Monday night, it was in start contrast to the hundreds of Jefferson County residents who showed up to three open forums held in December to field public comments on the redistricting plan.

Superintendent Dr. Bondy Shay Gibson provided an overview of the revised redistricting plan, which reduces the number of students to be relocated to 225 from the originally proposed 830.

In a roughly 15-minute presentation, Gibson outlined how the district’s elementary, middle and high school student count will drop under the revised plan.

Under the new plan, no elementary school children will be need to be relocated, while 171 middle and 54 high school students would be shifted in the 2017-18 school year, Gibson said.

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

The new plan also eliminates the need to move Shepherdstown Elementary School’s 5th grade class to Shepherdstown Middle School by relocating the district’s preschool program to two other schools, Gibson said.

Gibson said the trade off to reduce the relocation numbers will be to require several district schools to operate at 85-to-90 percent student capacity over the next four years.

Under the plan, Shepherdstown Elementary School will reach 95 percent capacity in four years.

Under the plan, at the end of four years, Jefferson High School will be at 75 percent capacity with 1,231 students and Washington High School will be at 85 percent capacity with 1,403 students, Gibson said.

In addition, schools designated at capacity will not accept new transfer students.

Gibson said at one point in the future the district will have no choice but to build a new school.

“But we will fill in every nook and cranny before we come back to ask you for another school,” Gibson said.

The revised plan also calls for forming a redistricting committee in even numbered school years to re-evaluate the district’s overall growth status, and to re-evaluate the transfer status each school, based on its student capacity.

The BOE also approved by a 5-0 vote a revised school district transfer policy.

The board plans to meet with Berkeley County Schools officials within the next month to iron out a transfer agreement between the two counties.

Under West Virginia law, families pay tuition to the county they live in, regardless if their children are allowed to attend an out of county school. So tuition money of an out of county student attending a Jefferson County school goes to the student’s home county.