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Albemarle County plans study to address overcrowding, undercrowding in schools

Between overcrowding and undercrowding at local schools, Albemarle County says it needs to address enrollment challenges within the school division.

Baker-Butler Elementary School, the second-largest elementary school in the division, is overcrowded, according to a redistricting study. There are already more than 750 students enrolled, and that number is only projected to grow.

“So, when schools are overcapacity we are not able to provide the best instructional environment, right, we have to utilize mobile classrooms, which increases distance kids have to travel to go to other parts of the building and we just want them in our buildings, in permanent spaces,” Rosalyn Schmitt, chief operating officer for Albemarle County Public Schools, told The Daily Progress.

Woodbrook and Stoney Point elementary schools are also facing enrollment challenges, according to the study. Stoney Point, currently the smallest school in the division, is underenrolled, and “Woodbrook is modestly overenrolled.”

At an Albemarle School Board meeting Thursday, Schmitt informed the board of the recent study and the conclusions that study came to that could help solve the division’s enrollment challenges. The items discussed at that most recent meeting were for informational purposes only, staff pointed out, but they are expected to be on the August consent agenda for the board to consider.

Already expected to help alleviate overcrowding, a new elementary school in Albemarle is planned to open in the 2029-2030 school year, funding permitting.

In the meantime, the idea for a two-phase redistricting study and advisory committee were proposed to give more immediate relief.

That study’s objective would be to recommend an approach to create new boundaries in the northern feeder pattern of Albemarle schools.

“So we’re hoping to provide some capacity relief at schools that are overcrowded to improve their instructional environment, and we hope to do it in a way that is transparent and public and involves a lot of feedback,” Schmitt said.

Some objectives in the first phase include increasing and decreasing enrollment in schools where needed and finalizing the location of the new elementary school, according to the study’s proposal. The second phase aims to finalize boundaries and increase or decrease enrollment at other schools.

Adjustments to middle school boundaries may be required as well.

“So our primary objective is around elementary schools, but our elementary school boundaries sometimes align with our middle schools and sometimes don’t, and so we want to make sure we’re cognizant of our boundaries and our middle schools so that we’re not creating what we call additional split feeders where one elementary goes to multiple middle schools,” Schmitt said.

The superintendent’s office will begin advertising for committee members if the study is approved, and the committee will begin meeting in September, according to the study proposal. The committee will evaluate and create boundary options that are assessed by a set of guiding principles.

Potential new boundaries in the first phase are expected to go into effect in the 2024-2025 school year, according to the general timeline given in the proposed study. The boundary draft will be reevaluated for the new school in fall 2028, and if needed, adjustments will go into effect in the 2029-2030 school year.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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