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School Board chooses who leaves Forge

It was an interesting meeting, more so than I thought it would be with some great comments from some unexpected places. But first, the highlights:

Grandfathering with Siblings: Passes

SB chooses Option A

Option A:

To Mountain View: 117, 124,142, 143, 187

To North Stafford: 166 North Embrey Mill, 166 Autumn Ridge

Also, FYI, the SB voted to amend the school calendar for this year to make the now half school days of April 14th and May 26th into full days off for students.

First, the grandfathering with sibling option did have opposition from Aquia member Irene Egan. This is surely in reference to these same requests being made in the past for students in her district during a redistricting that she said were flatly denied. All others voted for the measure. Mr. Hirons explained that there are stipulations, that the measure only applies to students who live in the Forge district, that they extend only to rising 7th, 8th and 9th grade students whose older siblings attend Forge. Mr McOsker suggested making this a template and use it as a policy for future redistricting initiatives. On to the option discussion.

I called this the other way, I was pretty sure that the SB would listen to Mr. Connelly about not moving his established community. Either the rest of the SB members didn't think that should be a consideration anymore or they just realized the numbers needed to be larger down the line. I will say that this phrase "established community" came up again and again during the crafting of the first 7 initial options in the work sessions and kept some communities out of contention.

3 motions were made that were put forward for a vote:

1) Approve Option A

2) Approve Option A with removal of APU 143, Holly Corner

3) Approve Option B

Since it was the last motion made, the SB voted on option B first. This option did NOT move Autumn Ridge, so Garrisonville Rep Connelly gave various reasons why B should be chosen. His main arguments involve what has already been said about it being an established community and the lack of difference in the capacity percentages. The vote failed with Connelly voting to approve, all others voting not to approve and McOsker abstaining. More on his abstention in a moment.

In number 2 above, Holly Hazard brought forward a motion to approve Option A with the removal of APU 143, Holly Corner. This APU is in Chairwoman Hazard's district so it makes sense that she would advocate for them. She did make some good points, mainly that this area is not a high growth one and that this neighborhood is likely to be moved again when unicorn HS6 finally comes to fruition. The motion failed, with Hazard, Egan and Healy voting to approve, Hirons, Decatur and Connelly voting against and again, McOsker abstaining.

In the end, Option A finally passed with all SB members voting in favor except for Mr. Connelly and Mr. McOsker abstaining.

So, why did Mr. McOsker abstain? Fortunately, he did explain himself. He stated that he does have faith in the school's projection numbers and while the options don't move a lot of kids next year or year after that, he believes the options solve the long term problem at Forge by the target 20-21 year. He also said that he agrees with moving APU 166, "North" Embrey Mill.

However, the 65-70 other children, the real students who will be moving "doesn’t give confidence that we need to move right now," he said. He made the point that the SB stayed away from southern districts because "we are betting they will get a new high school but (he) doesn’t see it happening." He stated that he has looked at the CIP and crunched some numbers and he just doesn't have confidence it will happen in the anticipated timeframe (5 or 6 years away.) He said that until the SB comes together and makes an affirmative decision, something he acknowledges might happen soon, then the SB shouldn't make decisions based on the potential new school and that the decision should be pushed to next year. He was not willing to make a motion for option number 8: do nothing, but he clearly thought that neither option fully addressed the issues.

There were some other salient comments made by SB members that I will address in a later post but all members clearly put a lot of time, thought and energy into this process. There is a lot of respect among the members of the SB, they all acknowledged that though there were disagreements and heated discussion, they all had respect for one another. I, too, respect the individual members of the School Board and appreciate all of their hard work. Public service can be a thankless job and this is arguably the worst job an elected official can face. Thanks to the School Board for their hard work handling this contentious issue.