School district boundary talks will continue
The topics of Hanover’s school boundary zones and facility capacities are not completely off the table just yet.
With a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, the school board approved a proposal to form a work group that will review “boundary attendance zones and school capacities” including various programs such as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy, which is located at the Hanover Center for Trades.
Cold Harbor District School Board Member Norman Sulser, who proposed the motion at the April 8 board meeting, has pushed for changing the boundaries since last summer. Hank Lowry Jr., Ashland District board member, seconded the motion.
Through the course of discussions, various board members amended Sulser’s proposal. His initial motion would have had the work group looking at specific schools’ student enrollment numbers – Oak Knoll Middle School and Hanover High School.
Although School Board member Glenn Millican Jr., representing the Mechanicsville District, did vote in support of the final proposal, he opposed Sulser’s initial motion.
“I don’t think the data is there to go in with that preconceived motion,” Millican said.
Millican believes not enough evidence has been presented to prove a redistricting is necessary.
Once the language was changed and it no longer referred to specific boundary lines or schools, Millican expressed interest in a general study to find out the results and gather data.
Some board members strongly opposed Sulser’s suggestion. Beaverdam District representative John F. Axselle III and Earl Hunter Jr., representing the Henry District, expressed concerns of dragging on the discussions about school capacity and boundaries.
“I think we have bigger and more important things to spend our time and staff’s time on than this,” Axselle said.
Hunter agreed with Axselle’s point.
South Anna School Board Member Sue Dibble ultimately voted against the proposal, but said that the suggestion would let the board review other possibilities and options to address the underutilization of facilities.
Although Chairman Robert Hundley Jr., Chickahominy District representative, voted in support of Sulser’s motion, he echoed a similar sentiment to Dibble’s.
“I think there’s an opportunity here to study all the options for using the space,” Hundley said.
In the end, the proposal went forward. Sulser imagined the work group would be comprised of stakeholders, who would be impacted by any changes such as redistricting.
Earlier in the meeting during the public comment portion, two Hanover parents voiced support for adjusting school boundaries and addressing facility capacities.
Roger Bourassa, of Mechanicsville, is concerned with overcrowding at Lee-Davis High School and noted that his child, who attends the school, often has trouble getting to his locker or the restroom when classes are changing.
Mark Lavender, a 15-year resident of the Milestone subdivision, is the parent of a student at Chickahominy Middle School. He also urged the board to consider redistricting because of the school capacity numbers.
Lavender said he would mainly support a plan that slowly adjusts school boundaries and “corrects this disparity.” He suggested changing the pattern at the middle school “pipeline” by moving rising sixth graders to Oak Knoll Middle School.
“I feel that the data does support a boundary adjustment and that the discussion is not a waste of time,” Lavender said.