2008-01-30 / Family

Public gets a look at Bermuda middle school redistricting

By Donna C. Gregory NEWS EDITOR

About 800 middle schoolers in the Bermuda District could be given moving orders as the county prepares to open Elizabeth B. Davis Middle School this fall.

Redistricting will impact Chester and Carver middle schools as a result of the new school.

A committee of parents and others, representing 11 communities in the affected area, presented its redistricting plan to school board members last week. Around 6,000 students in the area have received letters, notifying them of the redistricting that goes into effect when Davis opens this fall.

The shuffle of students will bring relief from overcrowding at Chester and Carver middle schools, which were operating at 17 percent and 3 percent overcapacity as of Sept. 30 last year. If approved as proposed, Chester Middle would operate at 83 percent of its capacity while Carver would be at 68 percent. Davis would operate at 64 percent. The plan leaves room for additional student growth at all three schools.

Students living to the east of Chester and Carver middle schools will be the most affected, according to committee member Jason Moore. Students living in the vicinity of Chester Middle and westward in the Arbor Landing/Ecoff Road areas would remain at that school, while those living eastward would move to Davis.

The committee recommended a similar change at Carver Middle with students living around the core of the school and westward remaining at Carver, while students living east would go to Davis.

The Enon, River's Bend and Walthall Creek areas would attend Elizabeth Davis as well.

The school board tasked the committee with five goals: to meet the educational needs of students; keep students from one area at the same school; maximize proximity of students to school; use existing seats instead of creating additional ones; and limit trailers to avoid impact on core facilities.

Committee members began a series of six work sessions in October to iron out the details of the redistricting plan. According to Moore, the group did figure future growth into the proposal, particularly the influx of families expected as a result of the Fort Lee expansion in nearby Prince George County and those who will move into Branner Station's nearly 5,000 homes. Committee members tried to keep neighborhoods together whenever possible.

"You've done a great job," commended Dianne Pettitt, chair of the school board, upon hearing the committee's proposal.

This is the third time the school board has asked citizens to come up with their own boundaries when a redistricting is required. A similar committee process was used for the Elizabeth Scott and Winterpock elementary school redistrictings last year. The school board began using citizen committees as a way of getting the public involved, so there would be less strife between parents and the school system.

"This is a complicated, very difficult task, and this is something the school board used to wrestle with ourselves for months, and when we finished, no one was happy," said Bermuda District representative Marshall Trammell, who also serves as the school board's vice chair.

The complete redistricting proposal is available for viewing at www.chesterfield.

A public hearing will the held on the plan on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at Thomas Dale High School, 3625 W. Hundred Rd.

A second committee is working on a redistricting proposal for the new Tomahawk Middle School in the Matoaca District. That committee is expected to reveal its proposal to school board members on Feb. 12. Early reports indicate that redistricting may not go as smoothly as those in the Bermuda District.

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