Speakers blast ‘blended’ option
School redistricting and parents don't always blend well. The Henrico County School Board learned that tonight during a public hearing about the redistricting process that will set boundaries for the new Kaechele Elementary School in Short Pump and impact other schools in the region.
Most of the 42 speakers who addressed the board during the hearing at Hermitage High School made it clear: they don't like the school system's "blended" redistricting option.
They – and a vast majority of the overall attendees – expressed strong opposition to the option, which was created by school officials in recent weeks in an attempt to combine portions of the two primary redistricting options under consideration.
School Board Chairwoman Diana Winston had sought a blended option in part to determine if West Broad Street could be used as a dividing line for elementary school boundaries. But the option devised by school planners would involve moving too many students for questionable reasons while pushing Gayton Elementary School – currently well below capacity – more than 200 students above capacity, a number of speakers said.
Those who opposed the blended option also were critical of the process that led to its creation, arguing that it was not subjected to the same rigorous process of consideration by the 24-member volunteer redistricting committee as were the committee's other options.
"You have a luxury to plan below capacity for schools now and in the next 4 years by choosing either Option 1 or 2," said speaker Wendell Gore, a parent of Gayton Elementary School students. "The blended option does not allow that luxury. So why would you not take that opportunity?"
Winston began the hearing by acknowledging the opposition to the blended option, telling those in attendance that the outcome for Gayton would be unacceptable to the board, and that board members only would approve a plan that kept all elementary schools affected under capacity.
That seemed to allay concerns of many attendees, but it didn't prevent them from blasting the blended option anyway. Two speakers specifically asked the board to remove the option from consideration before or during its Dec. 13 work session. The board intends to adopt a boundary for Kaechele at its evening meeting that same day.
"I feel like I'm beating a dead horse, but let me try to put one more bullet in that horse if I can," speaker Terry James told the board, urging it to reject the option.
"The problem is, there are too many students south of Broad and not enough students north of Broad, and the new school is north of Broad because of anticipated development," speaker Patrick Barbier said to loud applause. "It's a bad option because it's based on bad policy. Make it right."
One speaker who did support the blended option was Liz Harden, whose neighborhood currently is in the Pemberton zone and would remain there as part of that option. The other two options, Harden said, would cut Pemberton's population to about 80 percent of its capacity and slice away families who devote significant volunteer hours to the school.
"If we lose such a large section of our support, it is likely that the PTA will not be able to continue these programs," Harden said.
Several speakers representing Ridge Elementary School had similar concerns, telling the board not to approve any plan that would move a significant portion of active volunteer families away in order to keep the Nottingham Green apartment community (and its 160 students) together at the school.
Speakers tonight who supported Option 1 said that that option would best satisfy the goals of the process by moving the fewest number of students (about 1,000) and keeping all affected schools under capacity through 2016. Those who voiced support for Option 2 did so primarily because it would send their students to the school preferred by the majority of their neighborhoods. A majority of the redistricting committee itself also supports Option 2.
The board will continue to accept citizen comments through Dec. 9 before voting on the matter Dec. 13. To comment, visit http://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/b581g51f74.
Citizen Staff Reports 10/12/2015
HandsOn Day 2015, which will feature 1200 volunteers serving more than 65 nonprofits in Greater Richmond, will take place Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Among the projects in Henrico or surrounding communities that need volunteers are: installing GardenFest lights Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, distribution center assistance at Feedmore, pumpkin carving with residents at SupportOne, work and play at Housing Families First, paint for independence at Heart Havens, spruce up the shelter and clean sweep at Harbor House at Safe Harbor, pinwheel project at REAP and Kidney Walk prep at National Kidney Foundation Serving VA. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 10/12/2015
Virginians who want to plant beneficial plants for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds have a new resource at their fingertips. The online Virginia Native Plant Finder now lets users search for native plant species that benefit pollinators. The tool, which is managed by the Virginia Natural Heritage Program, is free and easy to use; searches can be completed on desktops, tablets or smartphones.
Native plants are those that grow where they evolved; they have traits that enable them to adapt to local conditions. The Virginia Native Plant Finder lets users create their own custom native plant lists by selecting from dropdown menus. > Read more.
Henrico County Recreation and Parks is hosting a concert by The Volunteers of the United States Army Field Band on Thursday, Oct. 15 at Henrico Theatre, 305 East Nine Mile Road in Highland Springs. This free concert will be held at 7 p.m. and will feature Soldier-Musicians from the U.S. Army Field Band.
Since its inception in 1981, The Volunteers has been telling the Army story through rock, pop, country, and patriotic music. Its members have performed for millions of listeners in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Kuwait, and Iraq. This group tours more than 100 days each year, bringing a powerful message of patriotism and support to communities large and small. > Read more.
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