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School Board Work Session Discussion Breakdown

Much was discussed at the 3 hour School Board work session on Thursday. The main goal of the meeting was to determine a variety of options to present to the public regarding the Colonial Forge redistricting issue. To see the 7 options the board came up with, click the link HERE. Look for an analysis of the options in another post.

Just for reference, the board used student attendance projections for school year 2020-21 as a base for their analysis, as opposed to current attendance numbers.

Before the board got down to the business of meshing out the actual options, they discussed some alternate paths to redistricting, likely suggestions contributed by constituents. Board members touched on the idea of closing the Commonwealth Governor's School (CGS) at the CFHS location and transferring those students to an alternate school. Mr. Hirons raised the issue of the cost of transferring the program. Overall, this idea met with a lukewarm response from the board and no details of a plan were fleshed out.

The question of verifying student residency was also raised. It was suggested that if there are enough families falsifying their residency information, or that have moved out of the district since registering but still attend Forge, that potentially redistricting could be avoided completely. While it is likely that the occasional family does cheat the system in this manner, Chairwoman Hazard stated that most of the time these types of investigations go nowhere.

SCPS does have residents update information annually but the board seemed to agree that it would be too much of a burden on the school administrators to require annual proof of residency. Considering all of the paperwork parents have to fill out at the beginning of the school year, requiring a copy of a power bill to be sent along as well doesn't seem like too much to BTW. However, the logistics of enforcement coupled with the likely lack of offenders makes it seem an inefficient allocation of resources.

Chairwoman Hazard reminded the board of Policy 1403, which outlines the criteria used by the board to determine which attendance adjustments should be made. (To see the specifics of Policy 1403, click the link here.) Specifically, she pointed out that the focus of the board should be to move as few students as possible, a sentiment that was echoed by Ms. Healy. Moving 150 students out of a school just to move 150 others back in is both disruptive and inefficient, common sense indeed.

Overall, the more vocal members of the board want to keep the number of students moved to no more than 400. Some of the 7 options do move more than 400 students however all plans involve moving Embrey Mill North's "imaginary" students. Embrey Mill currently has very few students attending Forge but the projections show 215 students coming from EMNorth by 2020-21. Ms. Decatur pointed out on multiple occasions that moving this neighborhood does nothing to provide immediate relief to Forge's overcrowding issues.

Ms. Hazard stated that the board's goal for capacity should fall somewhere between 90 and 100 percent of capacity at all schools rather that 80 at one and 110 at another. This would equalize attendance at all schools while also equally distributing resources, since resources follow students.

One major topic of discussion once most of the options were hammered out was the sibling policy. When initially presented to the public, the School Board indicated that all rising 10th, 11th and 12th grade students would be "grandfathered" and could stay at Forge. However, any rising sibling would not be able to attend school with the older sibling already at Forge.

Chairwoman Hazard indicated that she would like to revisit this plan after having spoken to constituents. While some members agreed, others questioned how this would affect the attendance numbers. It was also brought up that large families or families with large gaps in their children's ages could be very hard to plan for. In the end, the board left this topic open for further discussion.

Finally, cheers to Ms. Egan, who gets the BTW School Board member of the day award. Ms. Egan suggested, in response to a notification that 48 more homes were recently approved by the BOS, that it is impossible to make long-term plans when the School Board has no idea what developments have been approved. She asked that the board be notified not just of developments that have already been approved but ones that are asking for approval. She said we can't be constantly playing catch up or "chasing our tail" and we at BTW heartily agree.