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The family that petitions Amyclae redistricting story

BTW is always looking for input from the community. We are fortunate to have the thoughts of the activist Mehltretters, the adorable family pictured above. When the Mehltretters learned of the potential for redistricting coming to their neighborhood, they hit the streets to raise awareness in their community by joining a signature drive. Below is Neil's story about his experiences.

My wife and I have been living in North Stafford for a little over four years and in the Fredericksburg area for 14. When it came closer for our oldest to start Kindergarten in 2012, we did what most parents would do: we researched the school system and found Stafford to be the best in the area. We came upon the trifecta of Winding Creek, Rodney Thompson, and Colonial Forge and settled into the Amyclae neighborhood.

Whether it was Amyclae, Arbor Glen, Augustine, etc. this recipe for "great schools" has been a go-to for our area for over 10 years. Naturally we've watched the yearly redistricting of other neighborhoods and schools with trepidation, and when it came out that Colonial Forge was now on the chopping block, we felt compelled to do more than watch. Considering that Winding Creek is already at capacity, and watching all the construction on Courthouse Road, we also expect that at some point very soon this great school will be affected by redistricting. With two kids at Winding Creek now and a third to start in 2019-2020, we felt it was time to get involved. We attended a work session of a FaceBook group for APU 163, then the Open Forum for the Rock Hill District. It was a steep learning curve on the issues.

We felt an overwhelming need to canvas a part of our neighborhood and help round up signatures for the APU 163 petition to address current overcrowding at Colonial Forge. We believed that offering a petition to show the solidarity of APU 163 to stay at Colonial Forge could make a difference with the School Board. The three main goals as my family left to collect signatures were:

-Awareness, make sure everyone we talked to knew about the potential changes.

-Action, sign the petition.

-Get involved! We made sure to explain the importance of showing up for the next meetings and voicing their opposition to redistricting Amyclae.

Everyone we talked to was receptive to the message. All but one of the approximately 60 home(owners) who answered the door signed our petition. I talked with one rising freshman whose dog took a liking to me while I was walking up to her house. Her dad was washing his car. When I explained why I was there even before he read the petition, the daughter just kept saying, "Dad you need to sign it!" My wife's experience was the same. When any teenager opened the door and my wife explained why she was there, their eyes got big and they were yelling and almost running to get their parents.

We talked to homeowners with young children, middle schoolers, high schoolers; those with grown children and without kids. It was an overwhelming response in support of staying at Colonial Forge which I was not quite expecting. Many were concerned because they moved to the neighborhood specifically for these three schools, they also mentioned property values and continuity of friendships for the kids. There were also several comments about kids on the bus for over an hour, why the county doesn't build bigger schools, and why we are collectively missing the effect of High School Number 6 in South Stafford on the 10 year high school projections. One other major comment was the perpetual redistricting and seemingly lack of a master plan in this regard. I was really energized by talking to all of our neighbors, strategizing about our next steps and being able to share in this community.

Stafford County in my opinion has a real problem with growth and unfortunately the school system is one of its victims. This came up again and again in our discussions when canvassing the Amyclae neighborhood. It seemed that an overall redistricting of all schools, elementary, middle, and high schools at the same time makes the most sense. Otherwise, many of the options seem short sighted or even somewhat of a gerrymander. Infrastructure in my opinion is also lacking. Two lane, country roads built years ago are transporting our kids back and forth to schools which hardly seems appropriate for the current, ever expanding, population levels. Is this really what we've come to expect from Stafford County: constant redistricting and insufficient infrastructure? In my perspective, we all deserve better.