At a glance, the most glaring difference in a side-by-side comparison of Moore County Schools’ current attendance lines and the new ones Superintendent Bob Grimesey proposed to the school board this past week is an increasing disparity in geographic area between various schools’ attendance zones.
As school staff promised earlier this year, the redistricting proposal leaves no school unaffected between Aberdeen and Highfalls. Some elementary attendance areas — West End, Vass-Lakeview, and to a lesser extent Southern Pines and Pinehurst — would contract more tightly around the school’s campus if the plan is adopted. Other districts, namely Robbins, Highfalls and Westmoore, would expand to make up the difference.
Grimesey’s presentation to the board on Tuesday charted, year-by-year, bar graphs demonstrating projected enrollment at each school over the next decade as things stand, and what it would look like under his proposal.
Overall, the school board hopes to rebalance enrollment between crowded schools in southern Moore County and schools north of Carthage where some classrooms are vacant. McDeeds Creek, which just opened for this year on Camp Easter Road, has helped with the former problem somewhat. The three new elementary schools opening in Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Pinehurst by 2021 will also create new space for students.
But that new construction itself won’t help a school like West End, which now serves nearly 600 students with a building designed for 500. Slight growth in the coming years is projected there, but the slope of the school’s campus prevents the installation of more than a handful of mobile classrooms to accommodate more students. Farther down N.C. 211, West Pine Elementary is at capacity and set to add another 115 students in the next three years as things stand.
On the eastern side of Moore County, Vass-Lakeview’s enrollment is down this year now that McDeeds Creek took over some of its former attendance area. But by 2028 it will regain far more than that — up to 200 students — due to development along N.C. 690, a popular corridor for Ft. Bragg commuters.
“It is McDeeds Creek’s 800-student enrollment that obligates and enables the west-to-east migration of students from West Pine into Pinehurst and Pinehurst into Southern Pines,” Grimesey said.
“Given what we know about projected enrollments at West End and West Pine elementary schools, the committee concluded that an eastward migration or enrollment would be necessary.”
Grimesey’s plan, which the school board will consider adopting next month, would bring West End Elementary back within its designed capacity until 2025 if the schools’ attendance projections hold true. It would accomplish the same goal at West Pine until 2028.
Under the plan, Vass-Lakeview would not reach full capacity until 2027 — five years later than it’s expected to as if its attendance zone is left as it is. New Century Middle School’s “at capacity” date would move from 2023 to 2025.
At West Pine Middle, which already enrolls about 130 students more than it was built to serve, redistricting would bring the school back to 700 students for three years. If left unchecked, growth in the Pinehurst area would put more than 1,100 students there by 2028.
If implemented as recommended over the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, redistricting would affect 750 to 900 elementary school students and 400 to 600 middle school students, or just under 20 percent of the district’s K-8 population. It would do little to ameliorate crowding at Pinecrest and Union Pines high schools.
“It is a plan designed to address important needs across our entire school district and it has required us to propose changes that will cause some short-term disruption and inconvenience in the daily routines and traditional assumptions of multiple communities, neighborhoods and individual families,” Grimesey told the board.
“We refuse to market this plan as ambitious or bold. It is not something that we celebrate, since we realize it may be perceived as a reward by some and a cost for others. Instead we offer it as our best effort to balance local interests with the broader needs of Moore County as a whole.”
The Moore County Board of Education has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed redistricting plan on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Union Pines auditorium.
Expanding the Northern Reach
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. In January, the board hired consulting firm Numerix to analyze that enrollment data and, even further, to predict where growth is most likely to take place.
With feedback from a committee of about 60 teachers, principals and parents representing every elementary and middle school in the district, the schools rolled out two preliminary drafts this past spring.
At public meetings in April and May, parents raised concerns about proposals that would divide neighborhoods or disrupt traditional feeder patterns from elementary through middle and high school.
On the northern end of Moore County, all three elementary school zones extend to cover more territory.
“This was a direct effort to try to better utilize the schools in the northern part of the district, and the only way we could do that was to bring those boundaries down to the south a little bit more,” said Mike Miller, the lead consultant with Numerix and formerly a project manager with the Operations Research and Education Laboratory at N.C. State.
“Some of those areas are not densely populated, so you have to go quite a way to get the kind of numbers we’re looking at now.”
The Highfalls attendance zone extends east to the Lee County line and as far south as the current line between the Carthage and Cameron elementary schools.
Westmoore extends to N.C. 24/27 into area now served by Robbins, and even south of the highway in a small area west of Pine Grove Church Road. The line between Robbins and Westmoore also moves west toward Robbins’ municipal boundary.
In turn, part of the Robbins area extends slightly northward to pull in Maness and Hussey roads. Robbins would also incorporate the Eagle Springs area as redistricting is proposed, and the line between Robbins and Carthage would move toward Carthage to pull in both sides of J Dowdy Road.
The Carthage Elementary attendance area would extend into area now served by Cameron north of U.S. 15-501 between Carthage and Lemon Springs. The boundary between Carthage and Sandhills Farm Life elementary schools remains much the same in the proposal, only moving slightly northwest to lie between Union Pines and New Century to account for new development around those schools.
As proposed, the Cameron Elementary attendance zone would move away from Union Pines, but would pull in some areas now served by Vass-Lakeview — including Ring Road and Rudolph Lane off of Vass-Carthage Road and Cypress Church and Baker roads farther east.
“The planning team struggled over every iteration to try to produce a plan that would accommodate the future growth that we know is coming to Vass-Lakeview,” Miller told the board.
“As you know … there are some geographical challenges for the Vass-Lakeview district and we feel that the current plan does as much as we can for the utilization at Vass-Lakeview without encroaching on the school itself.”
Sandhills Farm Life’s attendance zone would move east toward Vass to pull in new neighborhoods as well, but otherwise its area would shrink as the area between N.C. 22 and U.S. 15-501 — encompassing Forest Creek and Pine Grove Village — move to McDeeds Creek.
McDeeds Creek’s attendance zone would also extend south beyond Midland Road into Southern Pines’ town limits.
Movement in Southern Moore
The area south and west of Weymouth Woods would remain in the district for the new Southern Pines elementary school on Morganton Road, as would areas west of Pennsylvania Avenue and Pee Dee Road.
If the plan is adopted as proposed, the Southern Pines school’s area would move toward Pinehurst as far as N.C. 2 and N.C. 5, pulling in the Country Club of North Carolina, Pinehurst National, and a few streets north of Airport Road from the current Pinehurst Elementary area.
In turn, the Pinehurst attendance area would move west into what’s now West Pine Elementary’s attendance zone, bringing in Lake Pinehurst and the area north of Linden Road within Pinehurst’s municipal limits.
Boundaries for the new Aberdeen school on N.C. 5 would remain similar to the current Aberdeen Elementary and Primary attendance area, only extending closer to Foxfire to draw in all of Roseland Road.
The West End Elementary attendance zone would contract to serve the Seven Lakes neighborhoods and McLendon Hills community almost exclusively. Other areas north of N.C. 211 would be served by Robbins.
The proposed West Pine Elementary attendance zone would envelop the rest of the proposed West End one, incorporating both sides of Flowers Road, all of Foxfire Village, Pinewild, Taylortown, and a sliver of the Pinehurst No. 6 neighborhood along the northern half of Juniper Creek Boulevard.
New Feeder Patterns
If the plan is adopted, clean feeder patterns may no longer be the norm throughout the district — outside of the North Moore area — as students move up the grade levels.
The new Aberdeen elementary school would fall within the proposed Southern Middle district, and West Pine and West End would send all matriculating fifth graders to West Pine Middle.
But the Southern Pines elementary would send students to both Southern and Crains Creek, with most students in the town limits going north to Vass for middle school. The new Pinehurst elementary school would send students to West Pine Middle and Southern. Students inside Linden Road and south of the traffic circle would be in the Southern Middle district.
Vass-Lakeview would remain within the Crains Creek attendance area, and Carthage would feed directly into New Century.
Cameron, Sandhills Farm Life and McDeeds Creek would all be split between New Century and Crains Creek. That would put students from five different elementary schools at Crains Creek, and students from four elementary schools at New Century.
“This is a new phenomenon for Moore County, and we worked hard to avoid that but it was not possible. It was not possible with where your county is growing and where the new location of McDeeds Creek is,” said Laura Evans, also with Numerix and a former assignment director with the Wake County school system.
As part of the plan, staff recommended that the board allow certain transfer requests as a temporary policy as redistricting is phased in. Affected families who wish to transfer their students a year in advance of redistricting are included.
Students who will be in fifth or eighth grade in the year that the plan would move them, and wish to stay at their current school, are also recommended as permissible transfers. In both cases, families would have to arrange transportation.
“Having these two categories of allowable transfers, though, does slow down the transition in your utilization,” Evans said, “but I think the tradeoff to being family-friendly is certainly well worth the slowdown.”