What it takes to change W-JCC schools

"If the residential areas in the district are segregated, then you'll have a segregated school district."

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this snapshot misstated the capacity of all elementary schools together, it has been updated below.

Opinions abound and emotions run hot when school redistricting comes up in conversation.

With James Blair Middle School opening in 2018, the Williamsburg-James City County School Board has to redraw middle school attendance zones to fill it. That means redistricting will be on nearly every meeting agenda for the next year.

"If you were to pick any random school district in the county and look at the minutes from the board meetings, it's inevitably a controversial topic because parents have so many legitimate, competing interests," said Salvatore Saporito.

Saporito is a College of William and Mary sociology professor who directed the School Attendance Boundary Information Systems data project. He's also a W-JCC parent and will have one child in high school in 2018.

He said proximity to schools is the most common consideration for districts.

"Almost all school districts in the country tend to draw compact boundaries," Saporito said. "Those boundaries tend to have the same amount of segregation in them as residential areas; if the residential areas in the district are segregated, then you'll have a segregated school district."

But the zones could be drawn to balance socio-economic diversity within schools, to keep neighborhoods together, or to even out capacity.

The four W-JCC middle schools are within 8 miles of each other, as the crow flies, but look vastly different. Fifty percent of Berkeley's students are minorities and 48 percent qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, according to Virginia Department of Education statistics for 2016-17. At Hornsby, 32 percent are minority students and 20 percent qualify.

Board member Jim Kelly (JCC Jamestown) was around for four months of the 2009-10 middle and elementary school redistricting.

"In 2009, they asked the consultant to develop a map that had every school at even socio-economic numbers and they had students in Grove going to Stonehouse, I think, on a bus on 64," Kelly said. "It's hard, the way our county is, to truly balance socio-economically."

Saporito said integrated maps tend to be irregularly shaped, but some divisions do it anyway because studies have shown that greater socio-economic diversity benefits low-income students without negatively affecting higher-income students. Saporito thinks a consultant could create a plan with minimal transportation and more balanced socio-economic makeup, it would just take a lot of effort.

There are trade-offs for non-compact boundaries, like transportation costs.

"We're a long skinny county with our schools not necessarily in locations where the populations are," board chairwoman Kyra Cook said. "We have housing patterns that are designed on heavily-traveled thoroughfares with cul-de-sacs on either side so that makes transportation difficult."

Nearly 20 miles apart, Stonehouse and James River elementary schools are on opposite ends of the county. While minority students make up 62 percent of James River's population, they make up 35 percent at Stonehouse.

James River, which is in Grove in lower James City County, has 65 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunch, the highest rate in the division. Stonehouse has 24 percent.

At it April 11 meeting, school board members decided to hire a consultant to do the redistricting work, but have yet to agree on its scope. Kelly thinks they should only change middle schools, but a board majority decided high schools are an option, to alleviate capacity constraints.

By level, the elementary schools are at 94 percent capacity, middle schools are 105 percent and high schools at 96 percent. At 112 percent, Jamestown is the only high school over capacity.

Kelly said with the multitude of conflicting opinions, emotions run high among board members during these talks.

"The whole redistricting equation is really very complicated," Kelly said. "What I think is important is that the public weigh in on what they think is the most important criteria, you really have to rank them — neighborhoods, socio-economic, distance from the school — that's where the public needs to weigh in."

There will be public forums on the topic later this year to get community feedback, and each board meeting has 30 minutes dedicated to public comment. The next board meeting is May 2 at 6:30 p.m. and redistricting will be on the agenda.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

W-JCC snapshot

All of W-JCC Schools were fully accredited in 2016 because the 2015 SOL pass rates exceeded the state benchmarks: 75 percent in English and 70 percent in math, history and science.

WJCC division-wide

Minority students make up 39 percent of the population.

33 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 13 percent are students with disabilities.

For 5 percent, English is a second language and 3 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 82 percent passed English, 83 percent passed math, 87 percent passed history, 86 percent passed science.

The division's capacity overall is 11,455 and 2016 enrollment is 11,607. By level, the elementary schools are at 94% capacity, middle schools are at 105% and high schools are at 96%.

Clara Byrd Baker

Minority students make up 41 percent of the population.

38 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 15 percent are students with disabilities.

For 7 percent, English is a second language and 2 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 77 percent passed English, 84 percent passed math, 84 percent passed history, 78 percent passed science.

CBB's building is at 101 percent capacity.

D.J. Montague

Minority students make up 43 percent of the population.

33 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 13 percent are students with disabilities.

For 6 percent, English is a second language and DJ does not have any homeless students.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 80 percent passed English, 84 percent passed math, 87 percent passed history, 79 percent passed science.

DJ's building is at 78 percent capacity.

J. Blaine Blayton

Minority students make up 38 percent of the population.

36 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 17 percent are students with disabilities.

For 3 percent, English is a second language and 2 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 80 percent passed English, 87 percent passed math, 82 percent passed history, 80 percent passed science.

JBB's building is at 100 percent capacity.

James River

Minority students make up 62 percent of the population.

65 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 16 percent are students with disabilities.

For 16 percent, English is a second language and 4 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 74 percent passed English, 79 percent passed math, 80 percent passed history, 76 percent passed science.

James River's building is at 86 percent capacity.

Matoaka

Minority students make up 28 percent of the population.

20 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 8 percent are students with disabilities.

For 5 percent, English is a second language and 2 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 90 percent passed English, 90 percent passed math, 93 percent passed history, 92 percent passed science.

Matoaka's building is at 95 percent capacity.

Matthew Whaley

Minority students make up 48 percent of the population.

42 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 9 percent are students with disabilities.

For 13 percent, English is a second language and 7 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 79 percent passed English, 83 percent passed math, 85 percent passed history, 80 percent passed science.

Matthew Whaley's building is at 99 percent capacity.

Norge

Minority students make up 42 percent of the population.

44 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 16 percent are students with disabilities.

For 7 percent, English is a second language and 4 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 77 percent passed English, 84 percent passed math, 81 percent passed history, 81 percent passed science.

Norge's building is at 91 percent capacity.

Rawls Byrd

Minority students make up 43 percent of the population.

47 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 19 percent are students with disabilities.

For 7 percent, English is a second language and 3 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 79 percent passed English, 83 percent passed math, 88 percent passed history, 82 percent passed science.

Rawl Byrd's building is at 104 percent.

Stonehouse

Minority students make up 35 percent of the population.

24 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 15 percent are students with disabilities.

For 2 percent, English is a second language and 2 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 86 percent passed English, 92 percent passed math, 92 percent passed history, 84 percent passed science.

Stonehouse's building is at 96 percent capacity.

Berkeley

Minority students make up 50 percent of the population.

48 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 18 percent are students with disabilities.

For 7 percent, English is a second language and 4 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 76 percent passed English, 80 percent passed math, 85 percent passed history, 76 percent passed science.

Berkeley's building is at 111 percent capacity.

Hornsby

Minority students make up 32 percent of the population.

20 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 10 percent are students with disabilities.

For 2 percent, English is a second language and 1 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 88 percent passed English, 88 percent passed math, 93 percent passed history, 90 percent passed science.

Hornsby's building is at 99 percent capacity.

Toano

Minority students make up 35 percent of the population.

27 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 13 percent are students with disabilities.

For 1 percent, English is a second language and 3 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 80 percent passed English, 87 percent passed math, 86 percent passed history, 81 percent passed science.

Toano's building is at 105 percent capacity.

Jamestown

Minority students make up 29 percent of the population.

18 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 10 percent are students with disabilities.

For 3 percent, English is a second language and 1 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 94 percent passed English, 89 percent passed math, 94 percent passed history, 94 percent passed science.

From 2013-15, 93 percent of Jamestown students graduated.

After 2016 graduation, 59 percent of students went to a 4-year college, 18 percent went to a 2-year college, 5 percent went to the military and 15 percent went into employment.

Jamestown's building is at 112 percent capacity.

Lafayette

Minority students make up 46 percent of the population.

38 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 14 percent are students with disabilities.

For 5 percent, English is a second language and 4 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 88 percent passed English, 80 percent passed math, 86 percent passed history, 85 percent passed science.

From 2013-15, 93 percent of Lafayette students graduated.

After 2016 graduation, 55 percent of students went to a 4-year college, 30 percent went to a 2-year college, 2 percent went to the military and 9 percent went into employment.

Lafayette's building is at 88 percent capacity.

Warhill

Minority students make up 36 percent of the population.

28 percent are considered economically disadvantaged and 13 percent are students with disabilities.

For 2 percent, English is a second language and 2 percent of students are homeless.

Three-year average SOL pass rates from 2013-15: 91 percent passed English, 83 percent passed math, 86 percent passed history, 91 percent passed science.

From 2013-15, 95 percent of Warhill students graduated.

After 2016 graduation, 50 percent of students went to a 4-year college, 30 percent went to a 2-year college, 10 percent went to the military and 10 percent went into employment.

Warhill's building is at 91 percent capacity.

VDOE and W-JCC data for 2016-17

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