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

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

Highland Springs field to be dedicated in honor of longtime coach Spears

The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.

Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. 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.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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Jon Reinmuth, from Henrico Community Services, will show how to use a fire extinguisher from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the pavilion at Chickahominy YMCA, 5401 Whiteside Rd. Hot… Full text

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