The Spotsylvania County School Board has approved a redistricting plan that affects four of the county’s five high schools.
A motion by Courtland District representative James Meyer to approve the plan known as Option 2 was supported Monday night by chairman and Battlefield District representative Baron Braswell, Salem District representative William Blaine and Livingston District representative Kirk Twigg.
Berkeley District representative Erin Grampp and Chancellor District representative Dawn Shelley voted against the motion. Lee Hill District representative Lisa Phelps was absent.
The new high school attendance zones will take effect for the upcoming school year, which begins Aug. 12.
The two redistricting plans under consideration were designed by a committee of school division administrators, parents and community members to provide relief from overcrowding at Massaponax High School, which has been operating over capacity since 2009.
The plans used neighborhoods previously identified as study areas by Moseley Architects in 2015, when the firm was hired to explore ways to maximize existing instructional space at Massaponax High School.
The approved option affects 632 students. It moves 458 students out of Massaponax High School, mostly from the Lee’s Parke and Breezewood/Stony Creek neighborhoods. Those students will now go to Courtland High School.
Other students will leave Massaponax for Spotsylvania High School.
Students from the neighborhoods of Plantation Forest, Stoneybrooke and Courthouse Commons will leave Courtland High for Spotsylvania High and students from the neighborhood next to Battlefield Middle on Leavells Road will leave Courtland High for Chancellor High.
Chancellor High will gain 61 students, Courtland High will add 258 and Spotsylvania High will gain 139 under the approved plan.
The motion to approve the plan also includes a “mitigation package,” as Braswell described it, that allows rising juniors and seniors, along with their high school-aged siblings, to stay at their current schools, provided they can supply their own transportation.
Individualized education plans that stipulate a student attend a program at a certain school will also remain in effect.
Grampp offered a “friendly amendment” to Meyer’s motion, asking that the new attendance zones not go into effect until 2020, but allowing affected students to start attending their new high school next year if they wish. She stated that she would not support the motion without her amendment.
Meyer rejected this amendment, saying it “would be a nightmare” to administer.
Shelley said she would not vote for the plan because she is concerned that there is not enough time for families to prepare for the change.
“I know we need to do this. My main concern is doing it this coming school year,” she said.
Though he said he would support the redistricting plan, Twigg chastised school administrators, saying parents were not given sufficient notice about the plans.
“March 7 is the first time you went to the parents with an email,” he said. “It’s unimaginable that only four weeks ago, the parents got their first email about this massive change.”
Responding to this comment later in the meeting, division Superintendent Scott Baker said, “If that is a perception, I would ask that the board not blame the staff for that, just blame the superintendent.
“We could not have communicated with any clarity when there were no options developed,” he said. “In hindsight, we would all like to have done that earlier.”
Braswell said he would support the plan because it would use the division’s school buildings more fairly.
“In order to have the legitimacy and moral leadership required to ask our citizens to consider in the future the building of a new high school, we have to utilize the space we’re given today,” he said “To let one school be overcrowded while others are not is unfathomable to me.”
Though Grampp did not support the redistricting plan, she said redistricting will bring more equity to the schools.
“Resources follow students,” she said, addressing concerns that Courtland does not offer the same level of academic and athletic programs Massaponax does. “If you’re at an underpopulated school, there’s not as many resources there, not as many teachers. If we can get more students to that school, there will be more resources.”