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Shenandoah County: School lines could change

Board discusses boundaries and two buildings' pupil capacity

By Kim Walter

During the 2012-13 school year, two Shenandoah County elementary schools will be operating over capacity unless the school board makes changes to attendance boundaries.

School board members were presented with several scenarios of attendance boundary changes during a meeting on Thursday evening. Members were told that if no boundary changes were made among the northern, central and southern campuses, W.W. Robinson Elementary School would be operating at 103 percent capacity, and Sandy Hook Elementary School would be at 106 percent operating capacity.

Ashby Lee Elementary School, in the southern campus, would operate at 83 percent capacity. The next highest capacity rate would be at Strasburg High School, at 85 percent.

Superintendent B. Keith Rowland showed the board how student enrollment would change if students went to a school based on voting districts. In this scenario, the central campus schools would operate below 85 percent capacity, but elementary schools in the other two campuses would be operating at 101 percent and 110 percent.

"In this scenario, Ashby Lee and Sandy Hook would lose," Rowland said. "All increases of student enrollment, especially in the northern campus, would consequently create problems."

In a final scenario, Rowland presented the result of a equalization study done by Virginia Commonwealth University eight years ago. The study proposed changing boundaries to make attendance as equal as possible in all three campuses.

The students most affected by the study, if the proposal is put into action, would be those in the central campus, as the northern campus would leak into it, and part of it would be lost to the southern campus. Previously, students close to boundary lines were given a choice as to where they would attend. Rowland said that the proposal probably wouldn't work as well if students and their parents still had a choice.

"When you make exceptions, it starts to impact the capacity numbers," he said.

The study proposes changes that would bring the operating capacity at all three elementary schools to 96 percent or 98 percent.

"So you have to ask yourself, are these numbers better than having two schools over 100 percent capacity," he told the board.

Rowland said that if any changes were to be made, the board would need to decide no later than January to give parents and students time to process the change and voice their concerns. A public hearing would have to take place if boundaries were redrawn.

Board members agreed that time was needed to process the information, and an information item will be added to the board's agenda for next week's meeting. From there, board members can discuss their opinions and decide if any action will be taken.

"You need to figure out if this will make a long term or short term difference," Rowland said. "You don't want to be back at this table in two years having the same discussion."

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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