Henrico County VA
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Redistricting process concludes with a compromise

Its first attempt at a redistricting compromise wasn’t a success, but the Henrico County School Board found that a second compromise solution fit much better.

The board voted unanimously Dec. 13 to adopt a redistricting plan that shifts the boundaries of 13 West End elementary schools while creating boundaries for the new Kaechele Elementary, which will open next fall. To craft the boundary map that it adopted (Option 3), the board followed Chairwoman Diana Winston’s suggestion during a work session earlier that day and merged the portion of Option 2 north of West Broad Street with the portion of Option 1 (Adjusted) south of West Broad Street.

The compromise plan “really provides a balance for relief and seems like a no-brainer,” Brookland District board member Beverly Cocke said during the work session.

The plan will move about 1,300 students to new schools in the fall, including the 425 who will begin at Kaechele. All but one of the affected schools (Ridge Elementary) will have student populations below their capacity.

Colonial Trail, Davis, Longan and Short Pump elementariness all will receive population relief as part of the redistricting plan. Rising fourth- and fifth-graders at all schools will be permitted to complete elementary school at their current schools should their parents provide transportation, while no current middle-school students will be affected by the changes.

The board opted to leave Ridge’s boundaries unchanged from their current design – something that a number of Ridge parents had requested. The school is among the most diverse in the county, with a significant blend of immigrant and low-income students; parents had argued that several redistricting proposals would have removed large segments of the school’s volunteers and PTA members from its community, thereby harming its students. One proposal also would have trimmed so many low-income students that the school likely would have lost its Title I funding.

The board intends to examine Ridge separately in the near future to determine how to address its needs, Winston said. She pointed to nearby Three Chopt Elementary, which is under capacity, as a school that could help alleviate its overcrowding.

Adoption of Option 3 moves a group of students from the Hampshire neighborhood from Rivers Edge Elementary to Shady Grove Elementary but keeps them together at Holman Middle School (which Hampshire students currently attend). The result will cause Holman to be at 101 percent of its capacity next year, while Pocahontas Middle also would be near capacity. Board members discussed a desire to relieve crowding at both schools by creating new course offerings at Short Pump Middle School, which is projected to be at just 73 percent of capacity next year.

Superintendent Pat Russo told the board that his staff would work to devise possibilities that might pull 200 or more students to Short Pump Middle from other middle schools.

The board’s vote concluded a rollercoaster final week of the redistricting process, which began Dec. 6 with more than 40 speakers addressing the board at a public hearing at Hermitage High School.

There, a majority expressed outrage at a proposed “blended” option that had been designed late last month by school planning officials at Winston’s request. She sought the option to learn whether portions of Option 1 and Option 2 could be combined and altered to use West Broad Street as a dividing line between school boundaries.

Speakers were upset that the blended option would have pushed Gayton Elementary more than 200 students over capacity. They also complained that the option had not been subjected to scrutiny by the 24-member committee of community volunteers who designed the other options. Board members agreed and removed the blended option from consideration within several days.

Last week, Winston said that school planners took undue criticism from the community for simply doing what she had asked. The fact that the blended option wasn’t feasible, she said, quickly became obvious to everyone involved, prompting the board to kill it.

“It didn’t take a rocket scientist – even Diana Winston could figure out that it wasn’t going to work,” Winston said. “So it is a very open process.”


Community

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

Equestrian clinic planned July 7-8 in Henrico

Henrico equestrians interested in deepening the bond between themselves and their horses have the opportunity to attend a two day clinic, held at Steppin’ High Stables on July 7-8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic, “Become Partners with your Horse,” will be taught by multiple world champion equestrienne Terry Preiser and will focus on how riders and horses can work together to achieve more. > Read more.

Henrico school bus driver honored

The Henrico-based Hephaestus Society recently awarded its first annual community heroes award (the Hephaestus Award) to Hicham Elgharouch (pictured, center) for what it termed his "selfless acts of caring" in his duties as a Henrico County Public Schools bus driver. Henrico County Director of Pupil Transportation Josh Davis, joined Hephaestus Society President Travis Gardner, in presenting the award and an accompanying $1,500 check to Elgharouch last month.

Elgharouch was selected for his clear and demonstrated patience and for his infectious positive attitude, according to the society. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Don’t party too hard on the Fourth because a whole weekend of fun events await! Enjoy a classy date night without the kids at James River Cellars Winery’s second annual Smoke and Vine Festival. Another date night option is at the Richmond Funny Bone, where comedian April Macie will perform all weekend. The kids have their own options this weekend as well. Choose from storytime at Tuckahoe and Twin Hickory libraries or family-oriented karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House – I hear they have hits from Disney’s “Frozen.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


This weekend has something for everyone in your family – whether it’s improv comedy with ComedySportz or West End Comedy, or an inspirational concert from the Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company! Families will also enjoy music, games and crafts at Hidden Creek Park or reading to a therapy dog at Glen Allen Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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