BTW attended the town hall meeting to listen to the school board's presentation regarding the potential redistricting of Colonial Forge. There were questions about exactly what to expect, what neighborhoods will be affected and many emotional pleas from both parents and students. In total, the meeting lasted about 3 and a half hours and while those who wanted to speak got their chance, it is doubtful that anyone left with much resolution.
Prominent persons in attendance were Dr. Bruce Benson, SCPS Superintendent, Patricia Healy, Rock Hill District School Board member, Holly Hazard, Hartwood District School Board member and Wendy Maurer, Rock Hill District County Supervisor.
Here is a summary of the evenings events:
1) As of right now, the school board does not have an official plan. There is a work session planned for this Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. While the public can not comment during these sessions, they can watch the meeting and listen to what is discussed. Apparently, the work session will be streaming online if you can't make it in person. Find more info by clicking the link here .
2) While Ms. Healy was adamant that no decisions regarding what neighborhoods will be affected have been made, many in attendance questioned this assertion. It was pointed out that while official decisions have not been made, certain areas seem as though they are being targeted as likely candidates. Ms. Healy stated multiple times that everything is very uncertain and that all viable options will be considered.
3) Although there is no official plan, there seems to be a very short timeline in getting one on deck and approved. The school board's preference is to get a plan ready for the public by March 1st and ready for a board vote by March 14th. There were those in attendance who thought this timeline to be too rushed and that it would not give the public enough time to review and respond to the plan. Further, there were no guarantees made that if there was no plan in place by March 1st, that the March 14th vote date would be pushed back. Ms. Healy stated that the reasoning for the relatively speedy timeline is so that families and schools have time to prepare for the changes before they take effect in the 2017-18 school year. She also made it clear that every reasonable attempt to allow the public ample time to review the redistricting plan would be made.
4) A recurring criticism of the school board's approach was that it seems to be moving current Forge students out of their school to make room for future students who will eventually occupy new neighborhoods but who do not yet live in Stafford. There were multiple pleas for the board to reconsider this approach and to allow current students to stay where they are until a real long term plan can be made. The school board response to this was that their projections indicate that Forge will be over capacity starting in the next year or two if no changes are made now. While there were some who suggested just dealing with the over-crowding in the short term, others pointed out that practical issues that go along with over-crowded schools like shorter lunch times to accommodate all students, crowded hallways, classrooms and libraries reduce the quality of education for students.
5) Another recurring topic of discussion was the mythical High School #6 (HS6) and when it might actually come to fruition. According to the current Capital Improvement Plan or CIP, HS6 is due to come to Stafford in 2028. The general consensus was that with all the new homes and new neighborhoods coming to Stafford, we need HS6 much sooner than 11 years from now. The school board is aware of this and has 2 potential tracts of land where HS6 might go. However, even with a bumped up timeline, HS6 still looks to be 5-7 years away.
While the school board makes the decisions for the schools, they can only do so in concert with our County Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors holds the purse strings and they have a very long list of things to do with the money they steward for us, the county residents. Regardless of your party affiliation, your elected officials are "hired" by us, the voters, and they must respond to our demands. Those purse strings only come loose for education when county residents like you demand it be done.
Write your supervisors and board members, write ALL of them, flood those inboxes with your opinions. It is their job to take responsibility for the direction our county takes and it is our job to let them know which direction that should be. Find the email addresses at the links on our "Contact Your Elected Officials page" HERE.