Voicing Concerns: Public meets to discuss boundary changes

Ann Shirkey, of Edinburg, addresses the Shenandoah County School Board at W.W. Robinson Elementary School in Woodstock on Wednesday night during a public hearing to consider boundary adjustments. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – At a public hearing Wednesday night, the Shenandoah County School Board heard comments from the community on the school district’s proposed boundary change.

A crowd of around 200 community members met at the W.W. Robinson Elementary School cafeteria to discuss the boundary change option that was presented to the School Board last Thursday.

CEO Tracy Richter, of DeJong-Richter, and GIS analyst Matt Sachs had presented the board with Option C  as the best of three previously proposed options to alleviate overcrowding and better equalize the population at the three campuses.

Among the public speakers were Mike Dorman, principal of Stonewall Jackson High School; Todd Lynn, principal at North Fork Middle School; and Steve Povlish, principal Ashby Lee Elementary School. Each spoke about the pride their schools have in regards to academics and athletics and each said their schools welcome any new students they may see next year.

Jennifer Bennet, a Stonewall Jackson graduate, said she believes the board has been data-driven and fiscally responsible in regards to the boundary changes.

Shaun Alkire, of Edinburg, speaks during the Shenandoah County School Board public hearing. Rich Cooley/Daily

“You’ve tried to take a scientific approach to this, your data supports your conclusion,” she said.

Jennifer Biller, of the southern campus, said she believes all the campuses should be able to provide the same educational and programmatic opportunities to all students.

“I believe that this process has been fair, comprehensive and has brought light to many factors in the school system that have not been explored recently,” she said.

Ray Powell, said, “It is time to take action.”

“Realignment is the best action at this point to reduce some of the overcrowding, but also realign facility assets to their maximum potential,” he added.

Laura Dawson, of Toms Brook, speaks during the Shenandoah County School Board public hearing on boundary adjustments Wednesday night. Rich Cooley/Daily

Though not everyone thought the boundary change is in the best interest of the students.

Ann Shirkey, of Edinburg, said there are unknown costs associated with boundary changes that haven’t been taken into consideration.

“The parents and taxpayers in Shenandoah County do not feel that you have our best interest at heart for our children and our families,” she said.

Nancy Miller, of Edinburg, said she has a “list of issues” with the boundary change.

“The boundary adjustment does not in itself solve the overcrowding issue at the elementary school level. Instead of relieving the overcrowding of our two elementary schools, we have created overcrowding at a third school,” she said.

Option C has strengths and challenges that have been discussed at previous meetings.

The strengths include keeping the town of Edinburg together and keeping the fringe areas of the central campus intact to avoid longer travel times. It also moves more densely populated areas and has the largest increase in utilization at the southern campus.

Challenges include increased travel times for some students. Option C also affects the greatest number of students.

Option C would bring the utilization rate at Sandy Hook down to 97.5 percent, down from its current 102.4 percent. It would also bring W.W. Robinson’s utilization rate down to 94.2 percent, from its current 100.5 percent. Ashby Lee would increase to 97.9 percent from its current 81.5 percent.

Links to the presentations made on boundary adjustments can be found at the school division’s website at http://shenandoah.k12.va.us/.

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