WJCC School Board talks redistricting middle, high schools

Tuesday night’s School Board meeting was the first in what will be months of redistricting talks in anticipation of the new middle school opening next year.

At least middle school attendance zones must be redrawn to accommodate James Blair’s September 2018 open date, but Williamsburg-James City County board members are considering tackling high school zones as well.

Chairwoman Kyra Cook (Williamsburg) prefaced the conversation saying no final decisions needed to be made; rather, the goal Tuesday was to guide the division going forward on whether board members support hiring a consultant, and to define the scope of the redistricting.

“At the end of the day, it’s this board’s job … to approve or not approve, not to craft (attendance zones),” Cook said.  “It’s not about attendance zones this year, or next year, but over the next five years.”

They decided not to touch the elementary school zones, and to solicit proposals for a consultant.

Price will be written into the criteria, Superintendent Olwen Herron said. The board approved $150,000 to hire a consulting firm to redistrict in the 2018 fiscal year budget.

On Tuesday, board members also discussed the schools' capacity.

All but three schools, Norge and DJ Montague elementary schools and Lafayette High School, are already above “optimal capacity” of 85 to 88 percent, according division documents.

At the middle school level, Berkeley is at 110 percent capacity, Toano is at 105 percent and Hornsby is at 99 percent. For high schools, Jamestown is at 110 percent capacity, Warhill is at 90 percent and Lafayette is at 88 percent.

In the 2018-27 capital improvement plan approved by the board in December, the board agreed to expand Jamestown in 2019 for $2 million and the other two high schools in 2022, which is expected to cost $17.4 million.

Redistricting high schools is still on the table because it would be one way to alleviate pressure ahead of the planned expansions.

“One way is through the CIP and capital investment, and the other way is if you have variance in capacity where there’s space in some schools and not in others, redistricting is a way (to relieve capacity pressures),” Cook said.

Jim Kelly (JCC Jamestown) said he wants to only tackle middle school zones this time around.

The board meets again on April 18. Sandra Young (JCC Berkeley) was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.  

“Redistricting is always a very difficult, highly emotional activity,” James Beers (JCC Roberts) said. “Somebody’s going to be disappointed.”

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

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