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Redistricting for PR Elementary Schools Still Under Discussion

School board members call for slower process to allow for community involvement.

Not so fast.

That's the message Pine-Richland School Board directors gave Monday night as an aggressive schedule was outlined for arriving at a plan to redistrict elementary schools.

"This is a sensitive subject," said director Kevin Nigh, who said he'd rather see the process slow down and include a lot of community involvement. "If it takes a year to get it right, let's get it right."

Three options were presented by Assistant Finance Director Ryan Manzer on redistributing the student population of the district's primary schools -- [331 students], [504] and [415] elementary schools.

After an hour and a half of discussion, the school board's operational services committee decided to discuss it again at a meeting set for 6 p.m. Nov. 14 at the .

The three options are:

Option 1 - No redistricting.

Manzer explained that none of the primary schools isat capacity, so the need for redistricting is not urgent. The imbalance in population, though, most likely will lead to reallocating staff from Hance to Richland.

Option 2 - Redistricting certain locations.

This would equal out the student population and staff resources by moving students from Richland to Hance Elementary. 

Option 3 - Complete analysis of the school district and a full-scale redistricting

Manzer said this option would involve hiring a consultant at a cost not to exceed $25,000. Benefits would include more efficient bus routes, staff resources spread more evenly, and students assigned to an elementary school based on their relative distance from the school.

A consultant would take objective look at where boundaries should be drawn as well as studying efficiency in bus routes, said Manzer.

"A consultant will be focused on this project, allowing our current staff to focus on everyday duties," Manzer said in his presentation.

He presented a timeline that would wrap up the process with final plan approval on Jan. 23, in advance of kindergarten registration and early in the process of budgeting for the next school year.

School Board Vice President A. Robert Necciai said the plan seemed very aggressive for a complete redistricting plan.

Board President Stephen Hawbaker said he served on a community task force looking at redistricting several years ago, which resulted in students in Karrington Woods plan being assigned to Hance.

Community members saw the issues as they worked toward a plan, he said.

"It was easier to take [changes] once they saw," said Hawbaker.

He also expressed concern about the timeline, saying it was important to get input "from all stakeholders." He asked about the possibility of moving the process back one year.

Superintendent Dr. Mary Bucci said the timeline could be moved back to March, but noted that waiting a year would mean some staff at Hance would be reallocated to Richland.

If Richland Elementary's population starts to reach 500 to 600 while Hance holds at 300 students, the board would be less likely to staff Hance with a full-time principal, said Bucci.

"A little bit of a snowball is beginning to roll down the hill," said Bucci.

A consultant would work on a plan for "rightsizing our schools to equitably use our existing resources," said Bucci.

Manzer said that once he talks with consultants over the next few weeks to see what they offer, he could update the committee at its next meeting.

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