The votes have been cast and the decision made. Now, Union County Public Schools will start working to redistrict some 3,300 to 5,800 students for the 2014-15 school year – unless a lawsuit slows them down.
Although the school board amended the redistricting plan to grandfather in all rising fifth-, eighth-, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders in hopes of appeasing concerned parents, organizers of the group Citizens for Adequate Public Schools have sued UCPS on the grounds that redistricting plans are “unprecedented” and out of line with what is needed to deal with overcrowding.
“If this school redistricting process had been handled in a lawful way, the board of education’s school redistricting plan would have been summarily rejected or, at a minimum, a comprise or alternative plan would actually have been considered,” a CAPS news release announcing the lawsuit read.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the question of how many students actually need to be moved to address overcrowding. Though the efforts will move thousands of students, projections used by the school board only show nearly 300 students being over the cap level next school year.
Students falling under the grandfathering clause will still be redistricted to their new cluster if the student or family cannot provide transportation. UCPS will not provide transportation for any student who was grandfathered and allowed to stay at their current school. UCPS staff is working to create a list of all students affected by redistricting and send letters and information to students and families eligible to stay at their schools.
“After parents have indicated whether or not their child will take advantage of the grandfathering opportunity, schools will receive lists of new students to except. The schools will be preparing to welcome the new students and families into their learning communities,” UCPS Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis said in an email to Union County Weekly.
Schools create new master plans, so no additional work will have to done on behalf of the school once they receive lists of students who will be attending,” Ellis said.
“No unique changes are anticipated for the upcoming school year,” she said.
Parents also have the option to file an appeal for a transfer from their students’ assigned school to a school outside the assigned attendance area or back to a previous school. Student transfer request forms are available at all UCPS offices or on the UCPS website at www.ucps.k12.nc.us.
The school board voted to approve the redistricting plan on March 4, although the vote wasn’t expected to take place until April. The surprise vote followed two public hearings on Feb. 27 and March 3 where nearly 100 parents, students and community members were given time to address the board with any concerns they had about the redistricting plan. After hearing concerns from parents living in the MillBridge community in Waxhaw, which the plan first proposed to split, the board voted to keep the entire development in the Cuthbertson cluster.
Although UCPS has seen three other redistricting plans implemented in the past 10 years, this is the largest plan approved by the board in that time, according to Ellis.
UCPS did not respond to the lawsuit as of Union County Weekly’s press deadline. The school board is set to meet with the Union County Board of Commissioners next week to discuss school funding.