While the push to redistrict Wayne County Public Schools has become a popular topic over the last year, not everyone is completely sold on the idea just yet.
Case in point: Board of Education member Chris West, who said at the board's meeting Feb. 12 that the entire redistricting process has been pushed along far too quickly.
Responding to superintendent Michael Dunsmore's comments that state-mandated class size reductions had slowed the redistricting process, West said that it was likely wise to take a step back.
"Me as a board member, I think that we have moved a bit quick in that direction to openly start talking about the fact that we're going to quote redistrict and reassign students," he said. "I mean, we have a lot of work to do even to determine if there's a need even to do it."
Last week, West said that redistricting is, at best, a two-year process involving frequent stakeholder meetings and extensive data collection. He said that some people in the community are worried about the board's fast-paced approach to redistricting.
"There's a lot of people in the public that are not for it, and number one, we haven't even proved that there's a need for it yet," he said. "I think we've been a bit premature."
West said that he was not sure that there is even a need for countywide redistricting, and that a narrower focus on low-performing schools might be more prudent. Either way, he said, there is no way to know without spending more time collecting data.
"I don't want us to end up like Wake County and some of these other surrounding counties, where they are redrawing district lines every year," he said. "That is a logistical nightmare to me."
Work on redistricting is continuing, however. While West said that, to his knowledge, the board had never formally voted to go ahead with redistricting, that vote did take place at the board's June 10, 2017 meeting, when the board voted 4-3 to purchase six mobile units at Tommy's Road Elementary. That decision was accompanied by a unanimous vote to begin redistricting work, with the explicit goal of having new elementary school lines in place for the start of the 2018-19 school year.
The board voted a month later to form a student reassignment committee to begin gathering information on redistricting. The committee has met three times since then, with the most recent meeting occurring Feb. 8.
At that meeting, the committee discussed previous work on redistricting, and looked over the population centers in Wayne County. While changes to House Bill 90 have delayed the need to reduce class sizes, Committee Chairman Rick Pridgen said that the committee will suggest that the full board work on getting elementary school lines worked out in time for the 2018-19 school year, especially in regards to low-performing schools, in order to get ahead.
"A lot of people are going to say that we've got four years now, so we just won't worry about it," he said. "But if we don't get a start on it now, we're going to be in trouble down the line."
Pridgen said the committee suggested a study to determine how much funding the district would need to implement full class size reductions in low-performing elementary schools by the 2018-19 school year. The Board of Education will hold a joint meeting with the Wayne County Board of Commissioners Wednesday to discuss the implications of the H.B. 90 changes.
West said that the community has not been given enough opportunities -- or hardly any at all -- to weigh in on the redistricting process. A WCPS survey conducted earlier this month was a decent start, he said, but not nearly enough.
Pridgen said that the time for community meetings is coming soon, but in the meantime, the board still needs to have its budget ready by mid-May.