Monday, June 24, 2024

Brunswick County Schools to select new elementary and middle-school redistricting maps this month

The Brunswick County Board of Education meets at an Operations Committee meeting in December to review four draft redistricting options. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — This month, the Brunswick County Board of Education is expected to select new school district assignments that will impact hundreds of elementary and middle school students and that will go into effect this upcoming academic year.

The board will choose one option out of the four its consultant, CropperGIS, has developed over the course of a months-long analysis of capacity and demographics. Racial, ethnic, and low-income data were not analyzed.

Related: ‘A new school may be needed’: Three years after $152 million bond, Brunswick Schools enrollment swelling

During the redistricting process, Brunswick County Schools maintained three major criteria for CropperGIS to follow: keep neighborhood schools; cap enrollment capacity at 1,400 for high schools, 750 for middle schools, and 600 for elementary schools; maintain an average bus route of 60 to 75 minutes (one way to or from school).

New school assignments are necessary to relieve crowding at Belville Elementary School and make room for the new Town Creek Middle School. Current plans include combining elementary and middle school students assigned to Town Creek (both schools are located on the same campus) on the same buses.

This move will help increase transportation efficiency for reassigned students whose routes will grow longer with the change. However, it could cause concern among parents due to the wide range of ages set to be present on the same bus.

State of capacity

This year, Belville Elementary is currently 20% above its building utilization (the K-5 school can accommodate a maximum of 716 students) and enrolls 263 more students than the district’s policy which caps elementary enrollment at 600 students per school.

Meanwhile, Bolivia, Town Creek, and Lincoln Elementary Schools are underutilizing their respective building capacity, in the 70th percentile, with each below the district’s 600 pupil goal.

As for middle schools, only South Brunswick Middle School is currently above the district’s capacity goal of 750 (by 44 students) and is approaching full building utilization at 92.5%. Building utilization at Leland Middle, Waccamaw, and Shallotte falls in the 80th percentile, with Cedar Grove Elementary being the most underutilized facility, with room for 209 additional students.

With Town Creek Middle set to open in August 2020 with a building capacity that will accommodate 530 students (the smallest middle school in the district), reassignment options were designed to equalize capacity across the county.

Consultant picks Option 1

At an Operations Committee Meeting in December, Matthew Cropper told board members his overall first recommendation is Option 1.

“I think that all of these maps are viable for the district,” Cropper told the board. “If you implemented any of these they would be successful.” After Option 1, Cropper’s second recommendation would be Option 2. Both choices solve the district’s objectives and impact the fewest amount of students, he said.

Before the school system’s transportation team confirmed it would maximize bus capacity by combining elementary and middle school students on the routes to Town Creek, Cropper said he did previously have some heartburn with Option 1. “I think they’ve resolved that concern that I had,” he said.

Out of all four options studied, Option 1 would impact the fewest elementary students (185) and the most middle school students, with 331 that would be reassigned to new schools.

Middle school commutes would increase for students currently enrolled at Leland Middle that would be redistricted to attend the new Town Creek Middle.

Option 1 would relieve Belville Elementary overcrowding by reassigning an estimated 167 students, but building utilization would still near full capacity at 97%. Option 3 provides the most relief to Belville Elementary, but not by much; at 92%, building utilization would still near capacity.

Impacting a combined 779 students, Option 3 would reassign the most elementary and middle school students of all options considered.

Board to pick an option

Each option studied maintains 100% feeder patterns between elementary and middle schools, meaning, no students would be split up over the transition.

Also, each option’s reassignments for elementary and middle school districts cannot be extrapolated; they are linked to keep feeder patterns intact (e.g. the board cannot choose elementary assignments in Option 1 and middle assignments in Option 3).

CropperGIS’ public input survey gathered 161 unique respondents. Results show respondents favored Options 1 and 2, with Option 2’s middle school assignments slightly more favorable. A majority of respondents opposed Option 3. Option 4 was developed later in the process as a response to public feedback, therefore its support or opposition has not yet been quantified.

The theoretical last chance for the public to offer feedback on the proposed options is through the community survey and the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday. After that, the board is slated to pick an option at a special meeting on Jan. 14.

Dates, resources

  • The school board will host an extended public comment period Tuesday, Jan. 7 at its regular board meeting. The board has waived its 24-hour sign-up requirement for the meeting and asks speakers to sign up on the sign-up sheet before the meeting begins at 6 p.m. outside Commissioners Chambers in Bolivia. Email or call Jill Coughlin at 910-253-1082 or jcoughlin@bcswan.net to get on the list ahead of time, preferably with 24 hours notice, the district asks.
  • At a special called meeting Jan. 14 at 6 p.m., the Board of Education is scheduled to vote on adopting a new reassignment option.

Keep up with school assignment updates on Brunswick County Schools’ redistricting page.

CropperGIS’ options can be viewed online. Existing school districts can be viewed on the CropperGIS online interactive map, where new draft options can be viewed under the “layers” option.

View the consultant’s recommendation for elementary schools (ES) and middle schools (MS) below:


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee Still at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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