School Board to consider boundary option Thursday

Jeremy Raley

WOODSTOCK – The members of a boundary adjustment steering committee for Shenandoah County Public Schools have narrowed down the district’s options for redrawing school attendance lines.

At its third meeting Tuesday evening, the committee and consulting firm DeJong-Richter chose one of their three previously discussed options to bring to the School Board at Thursday’s regular meeting.

The objective on Tuesday was simple, Superintendent Jeremy Raley told the committee.

“We are going to work and focus and move from three options that have been presented and discussed publicly by the community and work to narrow down to one,” he said.

Option C was chosen as the best solution to overcrowding on the district’s northern and central campuses, and the underutilization of the southern campus.

Of the three choices, Option C affects the greatest number of Shenandoah students, said Matt Sachs, GIS analyst with DeJong-Richter. It also increases travel time for some students.

Option C has its strengths too, he told the committee:
• It doesn’t split the town of Edinburg
• It doesn’t move fringe areas of the central campus, which would potentially increase travel time
• It moves more densely populated areas
• It has the largest increase in utilization at the south campus

Sachs and the committee tweaked Option C as areas of concern were discovered since the committee’s last meeting. Seven Edinburg Gap Road students, who were originally moved to the southern campus, will be kept on the central campus because of transportation issues. Six students along Three Mile Bank Lane will now be moved to the southern campus, also due to transportation concerns.

Without the changes to Edinburg Gap Road and Three Mile Bank Lane, Option C would move 395 students to a new campus, with 47 elementary students, 18 middle school students and 23 high school students moved from the northern to central campus, and 123 elementary, 76 middle school and 108 high school students attending the southern campus schools.

In regards to utilization rates, Option C brings all three county elementary schools below 100 percent occupancy: Sandy Hook to 97.5 percent, W.W. Robinson to 94.2 percent and Ashby Lee up to 97.9 percent, better equalizing population among the schools.

At the last meeting, community members were asked to fill out a questionnaire on their thoughts on the three options presented to them – a method that would be used to help committee members narrow their options.

However, Sachs told the committee that results from the questionnaire yielded evenly distributed results – with no option as a clear favorite among area residents.

There were 151 paper respondents and 580 Web respondents to the questionnaire, which asked the public to rank the three options and include comments on exemptions that should and shouldn’t be granted by the School Board.

Common themes among comments included:

• Recognizing that students may have already purchased class rings and letterman jackets at their current high schools
• Recognizing that there are strong traditions in the community, as parents want their children to attend the same campus they attended
• Ensuring that the new policy is enforced
• Detailing who should and shouldn’t be grandfathered
• Leaving the town of Edinburg intact.

Three upcoming meetings will concern boundary changes:
• At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, a presentation will be made to the School Board on Option C by DeJong-Richter in the County Board Room.
• At 7:30 p .m. March 2, a public hearing will be held on boundary adjustment recommendations in the W.W. Robinson Elementary School cafeteria
• At 7 p.m. March 10, the School Board will vote on the boundary adjustments in the County Board Room.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com