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Committee set to make redistricting recommendation for Crozet, Brownsville students

An advisory committee tasked with determining how to best move students from Brownsville to Crozet elementary will finalize its recommendation Tuesday.

Over the last few months, the committee made up of representatives from the Brownsville and Crozet communities has reviewed student enrollment data, projections and redistricting scenarios. More recently, the committee released four scenarios to gather feedback from the community via surveys and virtual meetings.

“These [scenarios] are designed to gather feedback and they are not a committee recommendation,” said Patrick McLaughlin, the division’s chief of strategic planning, at the Nov. 9 community meeting. “You may see one of these emerge as the final recommendation for the committee or it may be something that looks slightly different from all four of the ones that you see tonight.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the committee will review all that feedback in order to make a decision about which students to move. They’ll present that recommendation to schools Superintendent Matt Haas on Nov. 29.

The School Board has the final say on any redistricting decisions and will hold a public hearing in January before voting. Albemarle County hasn’t redistricting any students since 2017.

Brownsville has historically been overcrowded. The school is currently using eight mobile classrooms to address the issue. For a more long-term solution, the board decided to expand Crozet Elementary.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearby Brownsville Elementary had nearly 900 students while the building’s capacity was 764. At Crozet, enrollment was up to 360 students, 30 more than the building’s capacity. The $20.4 million, 28,000-square-foot expansion of Crozet will add about 340 seats.

This school year, Brownsville has 729 students while Crozet has 328.

Under the initial scenarios, between 226 to 272 students could move from Brownsville to Crozet, leaving both schools with room to grow. Over the next five years, the division is projecting Brownsville to add another 235 students, though that’s using the current attendance zones.

Both schools serve an area with high population growth that’s projected to grow by 7,945 people over the next 25 years.

Crozet resident Lucy Dai said at the Nov. 9 meeting that she preferred the redistricting option that would leave the most space for growth at Brownsville.

“Hopefully in 10 years, we won’t talk about redistricting again,” she said.

The scenarios would affect people living in the Grayrock and Waylands Grant/Bargamin Park neighborhoods as well as the Western Ridge/Foothill Crossing/Wickham Pond area. The largest group of Brownsville students would come from the Western Ridge area, according to presentations.

All of the scenarios wouldn’t change the demographics of the schools too much aside from the percentages of students considered economically disadvantaged.

Nearly 20% of Crozet’s students are from low-income households while 12% of Brownsville’s are. The proposals increase the number of economically disadvantaged students at Brownsville by about four to six percentage points.

Several people who live in the Chesterfield Landing subdivision off Crozet Avenue were concerned about the scenarios that would send their kids to Crozet. Students in that neighborhood can currently walk to Brownsville via a safe path that’s about half a mile long, parents said.

“Consider how much fun it is for children to be able to walk to school, see their friends and interact with the community,” said Matt Walton, a Brownsville parent, at the first community meeting on Nov. 4.

Walton said moving to a community that’s within safe walking distance would be counter intuitive.

“Please don’t make us suddenly take away from our kids this opportunity to walk,” he said.

Reza Daugherty, another Brownsville parent, said that the walk to and from school goes through the Crozet Meadows Apartments, a community that’s restricted to senior citizens.

“Many of the residents wait on their porches so they can say hi to the walkers,” Daugherty said.

Daugherty’s wife, Katie, said the walk to and from school has been a good community building activity for those in Chesterfield Landing that gives everyone a chance to be out in nature and appreciate the beauty of Crozet.

“We haven’t seen a bear yet but have seen deer, which is really awesome,” she said.

Keith Finan said the redistricting scenarios involving Chesterfield Landing were unwelcome news.

“We basically feel blindsided by this,” Finan said. “It essentially threatens to disrupt our entire life plan, several years we have sacrificed for. We’ve made a whole constellation of decisions for our family based around putting three young children through Brownsville.”

Finan and his family moved to the Charlottesville area in 2016 from Europe. Their decision to settle in Crozet was based on the idea of attending Brownsville. As part of that decision, Finan said his wife gave up her European banking career and he passed on an offer to work in the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.

“We researched the area schools, decided on Brownsville and chose a community across the street,” Finan said, adding that walkability to school was an important factor in their housing choice.

Walk areas for each school is one of the committee’s guiding principles and two of the four scenarios don’t redistrict Chesterfield Landing.

The new attendance areas for the two schools should serve the district for at least three to five years with a goal of five to seven, according to an outline of the redistricting study. Whether to grandfather students will be up to the School Board.

For more information about the redistricting process and to watch a livestream of Tuesday’s meeting, go to k12albemarle.org/our-division/redistricting-advisory-committee. The virtual meeting will start at 6 p.m.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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