Board trims redistricting options to two, for now

And then there were two. Probably.

The Henrico County School Board earlier this month eliminated from consideration one of three redistricting options created by a committee of citizens for the new Kaechele Elementary School in Short Pump. The board agreed that Option 3 (Revised Option F) would have too significant a domino effect, shifting too many students at other elementary schools and potentially costing the system Title I funding at Ridge Elementary School.

But the board also directed the school system’s planning staff members to review the two remaining plans and consider tweaking them or creating a hybrid option of those two if possible. The board is scheduled to hold a public hearing to receive more feedback from the community during its Dec. 6 meeting at Hermitage High School, beginning at 6 p.m.

During its Nov. 8 work session, the board heard from its redistricting committee, which met 11 times during a two-month period to create the three options and also presented drafts during two public meetings to receive citizen feedback.

The majority of committee members favored Option 2 (Revised Option E), which would move about 36 percent more students than Option 1 (Revised Option A) among the affected elementary schools but would present the best set of compromises to all involved communities, according to redistricting committee vice chairwoman Alice Ann Howard. That map also would do the best job creating boundaries by major roads and geographical landmarks and would not change middle or high school feeder patterns.

Option 1 would provide the best enrollment balance across all elementary schools affected by the redistricting and would ensure that none of those schools were over capacity through 2016, redistricting committee chairman Bill Panak said. But it also would require a few irregular boundaries and would mean that not every community would receive a preferred option. It also would change feeder patterns for 333 students.

In addition to setting boundaries for Kaechele Elementary, the committee was tasked with providing relief for other nearby schools forecasted to exceed their capacity soon and to provide relief for those at or above 95 percent capacity currently. The committee considered the boundaries of 12 elementary schools when creating its maps.

Several School Board members expressed a desire to use West Broad Street as a dividing line between elementary school zones – ensuring that schools north of the road drew only from communities to the north, while schools to the south drew only from the south. Committee members said they had the same desires but were unable to make them a reality without involving even more schools in the process.

“We ran out of room,” Howard said of the committee’s attempts to use the road as a north-south boundary.

Still, School Board Chairwoman Diana Winston directed planning staff members to take another look and determine if that goal still might be accomplished.

Howard conceded that all three options underutilized Three Chopt Elementary, which is comfortably under capacity. But, she said, moving other students into the school’s zone would have required shifting boundaries of schools beyond the 12 originally under consideration.

Map 3 would have moved 160 low-income students from Ridge Elementary to Pinchbeck, likely threatening Ridge’s designation as a Title I school. Title I is a federal designation that provides extra funding to schools with a certain percentage of low-income students. Ridge would fall below that threshold with the move, while Pinchbeck would not quite reach it even with the addition of those students, Deputy Superintendent Pat Kinlaw said.

Once the board adopts new boundaries, rising fourth- and fifth-graders at any of the affected schools will be able to remain at their current schools if they choose. Students who move to the district to begin fourth or fifth grade, however, must attend the school designated by the new boundaries.
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Democrat VanValkenburg kicks off Gen. Assembly campaign


Senior students at Glen Allen High School will get a personal touch when studying elections with their AP government teacher.

That teacher, Schuyler VanValkenburg, recently announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the 72nd District seat in the House of Delegates. If he earns the nomination, he will run against Del. Jimmie Massie, R-Henrico, who has been unopposed for 10 years.

VanValkenburg, a 2004 University of Richmond alumnus who majored in history, is running for office for the first time. Although he has lived in Richmond since he began his undergraduate studies, aside from one year spent in Seattle, he said he never felt it was his time to run. > Read more.

Construction begins on JA Finance Park at Libbie Mill


School and business leaders from around the region, including (pictured, from left) Simon Hodges of Dominion Resources, Daphne Swanso(president of Junior Achievement of Central Virginia) and Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas, gathered at Libbie Mill Library Feb. 23 for the Junior Achievement Finance Park construction kickoff. > Read more.

Assembly poised to OK state budget on Friday


Finishing a day early, House and Senate negotiators agreed on a budget Wednesday that includes employee pay raises and more money for K-12 education and mental health.

The negotiators presented their budget to their fellow lawmakers in time for the required 48-hour review, which could be completed by Friday night with a chance to adjourn their 2017 session before Saturday’s target date.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate praised the spending plan’s conservative fiscal policies. > Read more.

Section of Charles City Road to close beginning Feb. 26


A section of Charles City Road, from Lewis Road to South Airport Drive, will be closed beginning Sunday, Feb. 26 as part of a project to widen and improve the road.

The Henrico County Department of Public Works expects the closure to last for a few weeks.

Westbound traffic on Charles City will be detoured around the work zone by way of South Airport, Seven Hills Boulevard and Laburnum Avenue. > Read more.

ACLU urges McAuliffe to veto anti-immigration bills


Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday to veto Republican-backed legislation banning local governments in Virginia from designating themselves as sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. They also said they plan to fight federal and state policies that they believe violate immigrants’ rights.

At a news conference, representatives of the ACLU of Virginia and other civil rights organizations criticized anti-immigrant measures passed by the General Assembly. They also condemned the recent spike in deportation raids on immigrant communities in Virginia by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as President Donald Trump’s recent executive order banning immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Given the warm weather lately, Saturday’s RVA Polar Plunge Winter Fest, benefiting Special Olympics Virginia, might actually be enjoyable! Other weekend events you’re sure to enjoy include the 14th annual Richmond Kids Expo at the Richmond Raceway Complex, the Richmond Symphony and The Taters in concert at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, and the Richmond Ballet Minds in Motion Team XXL performing at the Henrico Theatre. This is also the last weekend to check out HATTheatre’s production of “Bill W. and Dr. Bob.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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The Weinstein Jewish Community Center will host a free Community Purim Celebration from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Come dressed in costume and enjoy free carnival games and prizes, moon bounces, clowns and face-painting, arts and crafts, and more. Food will be available for purchase. The schedule includes Megillah Readings at 11 a.m. (before the carnival) and 12:15 p.m., a costume parade and dance party with DJ Bob at 2 p.m. and a Purim Shpiel presented by Congregation Beth Ahabah at 3 p.m. Bring an individually wrapped food or snack item to donate to Safe Harbor Shelter. For details, visit http://www.weinsteinjcc.org. Full text

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