10/27/15 Residents oppose plan to transfer students

Residents oppose plan to transfer students
Group from Mebane attends ABSS Board of Education meeting
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 10/27/15  
Reprinted with permission.      

   The first public response to the school system’s first proposal of a redistricting plan was all in opposition and all from one Mebane Subdivision.

   “My children are not beans that can be pushed from one side of a table to the other,” said Dori Anderson, a resident of the Governor’s Green subdivision holding up a picture of her daughter for the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education to see. “This is not the right solution, and deep down you all know this.”

   About 110 elementary school students living in Governor’s Green would be transferred from South Mebane Elementary School off Third Street Extension south of downtown Mebane to E.M. Yoder Elementary west of downtown.

   “Our students would literally have to pass by South Mebane to get to E.M. Yoder,” Governor’s Green resident Steven Gray told the board at its October meeting Monday.

   The first draft of the superintendent’s recommended redistricting plan would affect eight elementary schools across Alamance County — Altamahaw-Ossipee, Eastlawn, E.M. Yoder, Grove Park, Hillcrest, Smith, Andrews, South Graham and South Mebane — and move about 270 kids. The idea is to eliminate integration-era satellite zones in Burlington and move students from crowed elementary schools to ones with enough space.

   Only parents from Governor’s Green spoke out Monday night. Anderson was one of seven parents from the subdivision to speak.

   “It’s not a done deal, we’ve looked at a number of options, and the last thing I want you to think is that I see your children as beans or numbers,” Bill Harrison, Alamance-Burlington School System superintendent, told the crowded meeting room after public comments.

   Harrison said this was the “first go through,” and there were going to be public forums and discussions before the board made a decision early in 2016.

   Gray gave the board a petition against the proposal with more than 220 signatures.

   Parents from the subdivision talked about the harm changing schools does to children’s academic performance and emotional growth. Some of them cited studies. Several talked about how involved parents in Governor’s Green are in South Mebane as volunteers, members of the parent-teacher organization and field trip chaperones.

   “These are schools or our making, and the central office and board leadership should be investing in our schools instead of trying to tear them apart,” said Matt Skinner, who has children at South Mebane Elementary, Woodlawn Middle and Eastern High schools.

   Speakers said having their children moved felt like a divorce or an eviction. Several said they spend hundreds of thousands to move into the subdivision so their children should go to South Mebane Elementary and Woodlawn Middle schools.

   Gray suggested the board leave the Governors Green children where they were and fill E.M. Yoder as new developments currently being built fill up.

   “Our concern is this is really a short-term fix,” Gray said. “We’re going to have to revisit this issue in just a few years.”

   South Mebane was not originally on the list of schools needing redistricting, but it gained 45 to 50 students this year and needed to add another classroom.

   Board member Patsy Simpson said she had never heard of a significant problem with overcrowding at South Mebane before and questioned the need for rezoning it. She also said she would not support the proposal without a change to the district’s policy on transferring students to schools in other zones, which she said contributes to uneven capacity at different schools.

   Board member Tony Rose said the plan needs to account for residential growth and asked Harrison to get information from county and city planners about what development was coming. He also suggested grandfathering in some existing developments and steering new development toward less-crowded schools.

   “That way when people are purchasing homes they know what district they are going to be in,” Rose said.