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Posted November 8, 2012 | comments 3 Comments

School officials leery of changing boundaries

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- Shifting attendance zones for Shenandoah County public schools would affect more than 1,000 students, officials learned Thursday.

Superintendent B. Keith Rowland updated the School Board on the district's efforts to tackle the overcrowding problem faced at some facilities while others operate under capacity.

Rowland provided more information requested at a recent board work session, including estimates on the effect boundary line adjustments could have on student populations. Data showed that adjusting the boundaries as suggested in one scenario would affect more than 1,000 students or 361 families, according to Rowland.

"A thousand students affected by a boundary adjustment is a lot," Rowland said.

"So the big question is, 'is it worth it?'" said Chairman Gary L. Rutz.

Board member Sonya W. Giersch echoed Rutz and noted such an adjustment could disrupt those families.

Rowland also presented information that tries to predict how adjusting the boundaries, by moving part of the northern zone into the central area, may affect bus commutes. The superintendent provided scenarios involving five random students attending Central High School whose bus rides would change as a result of shifting them to other schools. Some of the students' bus rides would increase by close to 30 minutes while for one other the commute time would decrease slightly, according to Rowland.

"This is really a shot in the dark because we really don't have routes we can compare it to," Rowland said. "This probably isn't the most reliable, data but it's the best we're going to get."

Board members also expressed concerns about how the district could enforce attendance zones. A map presented to the board showed that many students attend schools outside their attendance zone.

The division may see relief from growth in the near future. A study by the Weldon-Cooper Center at the University of Virginia shows the county can expect its school population to increase for another year before the numbers start to decline, according to Rowland.

Rowland noted that housing sites across the county remain unfinished or undeveloped -- perhaps an advantage for the school system.

"If the economy had continued to grow, we'd be in dire straits," Rowland said.

Rutz requested Rowland bring back data to reflect the attendance at facilities if the district moved the fifth grade to the middle school. The chairman indicated he would like the board to continue to discuss the issue with all members present. Karen S. Whetzel did not attend the meeting. Rutz noted the board, should it decide to make any adjustments to the attendance zones, would not do so before early next year, given the time it would take to continue the discussion and to hold the required public hearing.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


    Exactly where in the middle schools is there room to put an entire grade? If your answer to that is we'll move 8th grade to the high school...where in the high schools is there room to put an entire grade? Seems there are two options if you want to alleviate the overcrowding at the elementary schools.

    1) Shift the boundaries
    2) Build a new elementary school between the northern and central campus

    Which is more appetizing?

    Many school districts have changed boundaries to help with overcrowding. Neither solution is very appetizing, but it would seem to me that redistricting would be the cheapest. If we build a new elementary school, then in time we will need to build a new middle school and a new high school as well. The solutions here are going to have pros and cons and not everyone is going to agree.....just like with everything else in life. I just hope that whatever decision is made, it is made not only with the money to consider, but most importantly, how our kids will best benefit.

    I agree with the previous posters. I live in Strasburg, and am concerned about the crowding in the school, but what options do we have?

    I seem to remember a plan being on the books for an additional elementary school near Tom's Brook? to help alleviate Sandy Hook and WW Robinson...but let's be real here: we have limited options. We can barely afford the facilities/teachers/curriculum we have now, let alone paying for an additional school (or two or three, as has been pointed out); and I highly doubt anyone will be amenable to a tax increase to pay for it.

    In any case, even if the population declines slightly in 2 years...it will continue to increase...we've got to do something.

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