The Stafford County School Board is considering redistricting for Colonial Forge High School as the district faces tough choices to handle increasing overcrowding there, members said at a work session this week.
Enrollment projections show the school likely will be more than 100 students over capacity by 2018, despite increases in capacity due to a change in how the district calculates it, as well as the construction of additional space.
“It’s not fair to the families and students that are in the schools to have them in an overcrowded school while we do have capacities elsewhere. On the other hand, nobody will want to move,” Rock Hill board member Patricia Healy said.
With current projections, other high schools are expected to stay within capacity until at least 2022, and North Stafford and Mountain View high schools should be well under capacity for most of the next decade.
Board members said they are reluctant to redistrict a high school, because families are often very attached to a particular school, and every aspect of possible changes remain up in the air – from the timeline to the number of students that would be affected.
“My problem is I just can’t add another 200 kids on top of this and have neighboring schools [under capacity],” Hartwood district member and board chairwoman Holly Hazard said.
Colonial Forge has been closed to transfers for at least three years, staff said, but there are various exceptions—such as the children of teachers who live outside the county —and board members discussed the possibility of auditing transfers more closely.
The Marine Corps JROTC program opening at Mountain View next year might also draw some students away. But with current projections showing Colonial Forge would be 500 students over capacity in 10 years, board members doubted transfer audits and a new program will be enough to limit the enrollment.
“It’s a crystal ball,” Healy said. No matter how early projections are started or how specific developers are, there is always guesswork in projecting enrollment, she said.
North Stafford would have priority for receiving redistricted students because it has the most available space, administrators said, meaning that neighborhoods where transportation to North Stafford would be feasible would be more likely to be redistricted.
Most of the pressure is coming from new construction, especially in central Stafford, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Scott Horan said in a presentation.
The new construction in the Embrey Mill development, between Courthouse Road and Northampton Boulevard, is the most significant source of additional students, Horan said, and it’s “theoretically possible” that students there could be redistricted to North Stafford.
Horan suggested the idea of a staggered redistricting that might allow students who were moving to start at their new high school as freshmen. Space might stay tight for a few years that way, but would then get better instead of worse, he said.
Board members said they wanted to seek as much community input as possible, and not rely on committees representing neighborhoods as they have in the past.
“I would like to at least try that as part of this process and not just rely on a committee structure that really is representative of a small proportion of people,” Hazard said. “We’re now talking about the representation of 2,200 kids. I want to make sure we have as much input [as we can].”