Henrico Elementary Redistricting Committee meeting

Anthony Crenshaw, a member of Henrico County Public Schools’ redistricting committee, worked with colleagues during a meeting at Hungary Creek Middle School on Tuesday.

The Henrico County school system’s draft redistricting plans now provide for a new elementary school in the Fairfield District and an expansion of Hungary Creek Middle School.

The county’s redistricting committee reconvened this week to consider the new options, released last month, and to continue refining potential recommendations for the School Board to consider before an anticipated vote this May.

With overcrowding still a problem in western Henrico’s schools, the committee is working to determine the best strategy for moving students around without breaking up neighborhood school models or disrupt feeder patterns that dictate where children will go as they transition to middle school and high school.

Following a pair of community meetings in November, the two new options for high school boundaries reduce the number of students that would be affected by redevelopment, said Matthew Cropper, president of Cropper GIS, the consulting firm the county has hired to assist with the planning process.

“One of the conversations at our last meeting was about developing scenarios that impact fewer students,” he said at the committee’s meeting on Tuesday. “So you’ll see the most recent options ... move fewer students while still attempting to accomplish their objectives.”

Aside from limiting the movement of students to different schools in the redistricting plan, the county is also aiming to reduce concentrations of poverty and planning for future growth through the coming decade.

Between the two new options for the county’s high schools, about 800 or 1,100 students could be moved. Options presented to the public in November estimated that about 1,500 to 2,000 could be affected.

After an outcry from families zoned to attend Godwin High School now, the new options leave the school’s boundaries untouched.

At the middle school level, proposed changes in the newest option do not draw new students at Hungary Creek Middle School — which is currently at full capacity after the school division adopted a stopgap redistricting plan in 2017 that changed the school’s boundaries to address overcrowding there.

Despite the tentative expansion plan, the new option envisions moving 159 students from there to Brookland Middle School, which would put Hungary Creek at 72% of its expanded capacity.

At the redistricting committee work session Tuesday, Yael Levin-Sheldon, who has two school-age children, said the boundary changes in the new proposals would divide her neighborhood.

“It splits my tiny Glenwood Green neighborhood to two elementary schools ... there are only 13 elementary school students in our neighborhood and only one bus stop. It’s beyond ridiculous,” she said. “And the new middle and high school options kick us out of our current schools for no reason. There’ll be more than enough room to keep us [at Hungary Creek.]”

While committee members are continuing to work and debate through plans they think would be best for the entire county, several members at Tuesday’s work session said they need to acknowledge that not everyone will be pleased with the proposals.

Brandi Marano, a member of the committee working on elementary school boundaries, said some concerned community members appear prejudiced against schools with relatively large populations of students from low-income or non-English speaking families.

“It’s not showing up in the [publicly submitted] comments, but what’s happening is that people will pull you aside ... and say, ‘oh, you’re on the committee. I have an opinion about this.’ The things people say after that kind of blows your mind,” she said.

“I think a lot of times, what it is, people forget that we’re dealing with kids. Ultimately we want what’s best for our kids. ... We’re not out to hurt anyone’s feelings or lower property values.”

The redistricting proposals, enrollment data and other information can be found online at www.henricoschools.us/redistricting.

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