Of the 28 people who spoke at a Spotsylvania County School Board public hearing Monday night about proposed redistricting plans that would affect four of the county’s five high schools, only two were in favor.
The rest of the speakers—a mix of parents and students—opposed both of the redistricting plans that were developed earlier this year by a committee made up of high school principals, school division administrators and 12 parents and community members.
According to the committee’s report, the goal of the redistricting, which would go into effect for the next school year, is to provide relief from longtime overcrowding at Massaponax High School.
The neighborhoods suggested for redistricting were previously identified as “study areas” by Mosely Architects in a building utilization study the firm conducted for the school division.
One plan would affect 410 students and relieves Massaponax largely by moving Lee’s Parke to Courtland High School. It also moves students from Massaponax to Spotsylvania High School.
Students from the Plantation Forest and Stoneybrooke neighborhoods would shift from Courtland to Spotsylvania High.
The other plan is designed to provide longer relief from overcrowding. It affects 632 students and adds to the changes in option 1 by moving students from the Breezewood/Stony Creek neighborhood from Massaponax to Courtland and students on Leavells Road from Courtland to Chancellor High School.
The two parents who spoke in support of redistricting said they do not want their children attending a school that is several hundred students over maximum capacity.
The rest of the speakers said they think the redistricting is being rushed and that the school division should take more time to come up with plans that will solve overcrowding at all levels or to advocate for the construction of a sixth high school.
“I do not support at all the ‘rip off the Band-Aid’ approach that the county is taking with this,” said Lisa Frensley, the mother of two Massaponax students.
She said she doesn’t think the community has “been privy to all the numbers” discussed by the committee in coming up with the plans.
“Shifting Massaponax students to Courtland is a temporary solution to a permanent problem,” said a Massaponax High School junior. “This current plan solves nothing and just ruins the lives of countless students who will be forced to uproot themselves and change course, only to do the exact same thing a few years later.”
Several parents and a student said they didn’t know until a few weeks ago that redistricting was being considered and think there is not enough time to implement all the changes before school starts Aug. 12.
“My grandson only found out about it a few days ago on Snapchat,” said Carl Janney.
Parents and students from both Massaponax and Courtland high schools said they worry about the differing course offerings and what they see as unequal fine arts and athletic programs at the two schools.
Massaponax parents and students said they benefit from advanced course offerings, which boost their GPAs, but that those same courses are not offered at Courtland.
Parents of student-athletes at Massaponax said their children risk losing college recruitment offers if they move to Courtland, which competes at a lower division level.
Courtland parents and students said it’s not fair for them to risk losing class rankings and athletic positions to Massaponax students.
Others parents worried about how students with special needs and individual education plans would fare in a move to a new school.
In response to similar concerns raised at a series of information sessions last month, school division staff said “the resources will follow the students.”
The School Board will consider a grandfather clause allowing rising seniors—and perhaps rising juniors as well—to stay at the school they attend now, provided they can transport themselves there.
But one Massaponax student who spoke on Monday said that she and other students who live in her neighborhood—Breezewood Apartments—come from lower-income and minority families that can’t afford a second vehicle.
School division spokeswoman René Daniels said the board is expected to decide on a redistricting plan at its next meeting on April 8.