UCF to look at possible redistricting

Seeks outside consultant to evaluate population growth

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

UCFRedistrictEAST MARLBOROUGH — The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District began a process Monday night that could, eventually, lead to redistricting the sending areas of the district’s four elementary schools.

Aware that the subject could generate emotional responses — positive and negative — to the idea, district officials pledged to conduct an open, thoughtful process with no predetermined outcome. About a dozen district parents were at Monday night’s Board of Education work session, to ask questions and make suggestions.

“We do not take this up lightly,” Superintendent of Schools John Sanville said. “Considering that this is an emotional issue for many residents — and one of great interest to the entire community.”

The numbers, though, district officials say, suggest it is an issue that needs to be looked at. The Board of Education is expected to approve putting a Request For Proposal out next Monday for an outside demographic study to look at the current and likely future school populations and suggest potential remedies.

The plan calls for forming a local committee made up of parents from the four schools, administrators, educators and other stakeholders, as well as holding community conversation events for further public input on the matter. The current timeline calls for potential board action — if it is determined to be needed — in March, 2015.

Currently, Pocopson Elementary School (652 students for the 2014-15 school year) is close to its operational limits, while both Hillendale (328 students) and Unionville (395 students) elementary schools have spare classrooms, despite being smaller school buildings, as both schools have seen student numbers fall in recent years, while Pocopson’s have grown.

Projections suggest that Pocopson could be short by as many as two classrooms by the 2018-19 school year, which would impact non-core programs such as music, arts and computer studies — which currently have their own rooms at all four schools. Conversely, Unionville is expected to need two less classrooms by that same school year and Hillendale, one less.

Despite those facts, Sanville said, the district isn’t committed to redistricting if it is determined that the current student population at Pocopson will fall in the coming years. Previously, the district avoided a redistricting process in 2011 by moving all district Pre-K students to Unionville Elementary School, which freed up a classroom at Pocopson.

Officials emphasized some key principles that will drive the process:

• The district remains committed to having four kindergarten through fifth grade elementary schools.
• Each of the four schools should provide students with the same academic experience.
• No decisions will be made until “all stakeholders have been engaged in the study.”

Additionally, in terms of the final solution, district officials outlined five additional principles they expect to be applied to whatever is finally decided:

• Rejection of the idea of using trailers at a school if there are empty classrooms at another school.
• Avoid splitting neighborhoods between schools.
• Develop a six-year plan, so no student is affected twice by redistricting.
• Minimize the number of students impacted.
• School boundaries will be contiguous.

The current school borders have been in place since 1998, prior to the opening of Pocopson Elementary School, but not put into effect until 2001, when Pocopson opened. Previously, the district used a K-2, 3-5 system, with the then three schools. A review in 2008 opted for no changes, while subsequent discussions of reverting to the K-2, 3-5 plan was set aside after the concept proved unpopular with a majority of community members.

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One Comment

  1. Kristin Hoover says:

    Same stuff’; different day. Spending taxpayer money for cover so that the Board and Sanville are “protected” from angry parents who do not want their children sent to a different school. Anybody who is unhappy will be told that it is the consultant to blame and not the Board or the ineffectual Superintendent. This issue was Kinney’s downfall so we’ll see what happens.

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