3/17/16 Big school zone changes being considered

Big school zone changes being considered
Proposed map on display at district office
By Isaac Groves, The Times-News 3/17/16    
Reprinted with permission.      

   A proposal to turn the Alamance-Burlington School System into a five-high school district would mean major changes to school zones, building a new high school and expansion of several existing high schools.

   The proposal ABSS Superintendent Bill Harrison brought to the Alamance-Burlington Board of Education would have zones for Williams, Western Alamance, Eastern Alamance and Southern Alamance high schools, and a new high school in Hawfields. They would all meet in downtown Burlington and Graham.

   The map is on display at the district office at 1212 Vaughn Road, Burlington. Once plans get more solid, Harrison said, he would hold public hearings in April or May.

   “So this is phase one of whatever plan to start a conversation?” board member Patsy Simpson asked.

   Harrison said it was a work in progress.

   Williams High School’s zone would meet Southern’s at Huffman Mill Road, follow Interstate 40/85 to Tucker Street and Mebane Street at its eastern tip, and then follow West Webb Avenue and the railroad tracks west through Elon on the north side, where it meets the Western zone.

   The Western zone’s boundary with Eastern would be along Union Ridge Road north of Burlington, and it would run back down to Main Street in Graham at its eastern and southernmost point.

BY THE NUMBERS

   Enrollment for ABSS with five high schools:

   SOUTHERN
   Capacity: 1,100 Current: 1,600 Proposed: 1,372

   WESTERN
   Capacity: 1,085 Current: 1,220 Proposed: 1,604

   EASTERN
   Capacity: 985 Current: 1,220 Proposed 1,261

   WILLIAMS
   Capacity: 1,180 Current: 1,173 Proposed: 1,195

   NEW HIGH SCHOOL
   Proposed: 1,457
   Source: ABSS

   The Eastern zone’s border with the new high school would run along U.S. 70 and turn south on Gibson Road until it reaches Interstate 40/85, which it would follow to Orange County.

   The new high school’s zone would border Southern’s down N.C. 87 South out of Graham, and then turn east around Boy Wood Road, zigzagging to Orange County.

   Southern’s zone is by far the largest geographically, including the more sparsely populated southern part of the county.

   HARRISON ORIGINALLY CAME to the board with a proposal to build a new high school, giving the district seven zones. While it addressed overcrowding at Southern High School, it did nothing about concentrations of poverty in the district’s urban schools, Graham, Cummings and Williams high schools, unequal resources, and it basically preserved the divisions between the old city and county school systems.

   In February, Harrison came back with a plan to get past the old city and county schools system’s zones and cut the county into quarters with four high school zones for Western, Southern and Eastern Alamance high schools and a new school. Williams, Cummings and Graham would essentially be converted to magnet schools.

   That would have meant having schools with 2,000 or more students, so Harrison revised the proposal to include Williams as a fifth high school.

   Harrison said it would be very difficult to maintain “clean feeder patterns” to high schools from elementary and middle schools under this plan.

   The plan puts most of these schools over their capacities and will require additions to Western, Eastern and Southern, where there is room to grow, said Todd Thorpe assistant superintendent. Specialized programs at Cummings and Graham high schools also would absorb some students, though it’s not clear how many.