Hundreds of Henrico residents attended three public forums last week to weigh in on the three redistricting pairings being considered by the Henrico County School Board. The lengthy redistricting process is scheduled to conclude May 28, when the School Board votes to adopt one of the three pairings. Many speakers last week urged the board […]
Hundreds of Henrico residents attended three public forums last week to weigh in on the three redistricting pairings being considered by the Henrico County School Board. The lengthy redistricting process is scheduled to conclude May 28, when the School Board votes to adopt one of the three pairings.
Many speakers last week urged the board to keep established communities at the schools they’ve attended for years, while others implored the board to use common sense and send children to the schools that are closest to their homes.
A majority of the nearly 500 people who filled the Godwin High School gymnasium May 13 stood when a speaker asked supporters of Pairing 1 to rise.
Another vocal section of the crowd favored Pairing 2, while Pairing 3 – the school system’s attempt to combine the first two pairings and resolve some outstanding issues – appeared to garner the least amount of support.
At the board’s request, school planning staff members have spent the past week reviewing comments from the three forums and those submitted through an online questionnaire as well as the opinions of the 70-member volunteer committee that designed pairings 1 and 2 with the assistance of a consulting firm. Staffers are hoping to identify ways to address some of the most recent concerns raised by community members before the board adopts a redistricting plan.
Many residents at the Godwin forum spoke with the assumption that Pairing 3 would be the board’s choice. Residents of Linsey Lakes, Crystal Creek and Milbrooke argued that Pairing 3 would unjustly remove them from Glen Allen High School – which one said “is already part of our community” – and send them instead to Tucker High School, which is more than four miles away.
Another speaker said that Pairing 3 would produce 50 percent more elementary-to-high school splits than the other two pairings, making it an irresponsible option.
But other communities like the combination plan. Don Smith, president of the 1,200-household Raintree Association, said his community opposed Pairing 1 because it would split the community and opposed Pairing 2 because it would create a few issues at the elementary level. But Pairing 3 would keep the community together and maintain its cohesiveness, he said.
Some speakers became passionate in their arguments for – or against – inclusion in certain school zones.
Pemberton PTA President Ann Foster said that members of that school’s community had grown accustomed to attending Godwin High School and that the thought of some of the school’s students eventually attending Freeman High School instead just didn’t sit right.
“It’s not in our children’s best interests for [Pemberton] Penguins to become [Freeman] Rebels,” she said.
Lee Higginbotham, who chaired the volunteer redistricting committee’s elementary school subcommittee, also told the board at the Godwin forum that it should not alter the Pemberton-Byrd-Godwin feeder pattern.
“Godwin is our community and has been since its inception,” he said.
A resident of West Broad Village said that his new community should be zoned either to attend schools north of West Broad Street (Colonial Trail Elementary, Short Pump Middle and Deep Run High) or those south of West Broad (Short Pump Elementary, Pocahontas Middle and Godwin High) but said Pairing 3 made no sense because it would send the community to Tucker High School.
“We don’t go that way,” he said. “We don’t talk to those people.”
His response prompted looks of outrage from members of the Tucker community who had attended to support their school, which has found itself in the crosshairs of controversy during the process. At various points during the past few months, various residents have complained about the possibility of their students being moved into the Tucker zone.
But two Tucker students and one teacher who addressed the board said that students would be fortunate to attend their school, which they described as a caring, diverse family that prepares its graduates for life as well or better than any other county high school.
Regardless of their points of view, most speakers and forum attendees likely agreed with the thoughts of one Linsey Lakes resident who spoke at Godwin.
“I know you need to look at the numbers,” she told the board, “but remember that each number is a child.”
Any additional modifications to any of the pairings identified by staffers this week will be posted on the school system’s website – www.henrico.k12.va.us – by late in the day May 22. Community members will be able to provide feedback to those adjustments through an online questionnaire from may 22-26. All input will be provided to the School Board May 27.