Moore County Schools Bob Grimesey

Bob Grimesey, superintendent of Moore County Schools, speaks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony at McDeed's Creek Elementary in Aberdeen. 

Moore County Schools’ ultimate redistricting plan is now in the hands of the school board, which got an initial review on Tuesday of Superintendent Bob Grimesey’s final recommendation for a districtwide redrawing of individual schools’ attendance zones.

The schools began discussing redistricting earlier this year and have based a series of draft plans on long-term enrollment projections for every school in the district.

With the new McDeeds Creek Elementary school that opened for the current year, the school board emphasized rebalancing enrollment more evenly throughout the district.

McDeeds Creek unburdened two of the most crowded elementary schools in the district — Sandhills Farm Life and Vass-Lakeview — with an enrollment of around 500 this year. For the first time in several years, mobile classrooms are unnecessary at the other two since both have enrollments well within the buildings’ intended capacity.

The plan that Grimesey presented to the Moore County Board of Education on Tuesday aims to achieve reasonable balance at most of the county’s public elementary and middle schools by 2022-2023. To do that, it shifts students from crowded schools serving Pinehurst and the area west of it into Southern Pines-area schools. That creates an overflow effect throughout the county that ultimately would boost enrollment in the North Moore area, where school buildings are sound but population is waning.

Grimesey’s proposal would move about 55 students from elementary schools in the Pinecrest attendance area, and a similar number from the Union Pines attendance area, up to the North Moore-area schools for the 2022-2023 school year.

On the middle school level, redistricting would move about 250 middle school students from West Pine alone. That school now serves more than 800 students on a campus designed for 700. It is projected to grow to over 1,000 in the next five years if attendance lines are left as they are.

There is little room in the other three middle schools south of Carthage to compensate. Between them, they have space for 2,578 students without resorting to the use of modular classrooms and they’re on track to enroll about 2,600 students this year.

But the proposed plan would balance enrollment at West Pine and Southern. They are the same size and are projected to have a 300-student difference in enrollment by 2022 if the current attendance lines stand, to about 730 and 670 respectively for the same year.

As proposed, redistricting would augment Crains Creek Middle School’s enrollment by about 200 students. To accommodate that number, the schools plan to move mobile classrooms to Crains Creek to grow that school’s capacity from 480 to 700.

Crains Creek was designed along the same lines as the other three middle schools to serve 700 students, so the building’s central amenities — cafeteria, gymnasium, hallways and access roads — could easily handle an enrollment boost. As a cost-cutting measure though, the school was not originally built with a commensurate number of classrooms.

The middle school enrollment shift from Pinecrest’s feeder schools would move 160 students into the Union Pines area and 70 into North Moore’s feeder schools.

Grimesey’s proposal is not final, and could undergo adjustments before the school board votes on it next month.

As Moore County Schools implements redistricting in 2020 and 2021, when new elementary schools in Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Pinehurst open, traditional feeder patterns from elementary through middle and into high school are set to be largely phased out.

Currently the only school in the district that sends its students to two schools up the ladder is Cameron Elementary, which feeds into both New Century and Crains Creek. It would continue to do that if the proposed redistricting plan is adopted.

The proposal puts students from five different elementary schools at Crains Creek, and students from four elementary schools at New Century.

Along with Cameron, Sandhills Farm Life and McDeeds Creek would also be split between New Century and Crains Creek. Vass-Lakeview would remain within the Crains Creek attendance area, and Carthage would be entirely within New Century’s.

Southern Pines would be split between Crains Creek and Southern Middle.

In Grimesey’s proposal, West Pine and West End elementary schools would continue to feed into West Pine Middle. Like the new Southern Pines elementary, the new Pinehurst elementary would send students to both West Pine Middle and Southern.

The proposed Aberdeen attendance area falls entirely within the proposed Southern Middle one.

Detailed maps of the proposed attendance lines were not available prior to presstime on Tuesday but are expected to be on the school district’s website, ncmcs.org.

The Moore County Board of Education has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed redistricting plan on Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Union Pines auditorium.

Contact Mary Kate Murphy at (910) 693-2479 or mkmurphy@thepilot.com.

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