There is no question that it is long past time to reapportion students among Moore County’s 23 schools. Put simply, our student populations and school capacities are misaligned, and have been for years.
Growth trends favoring southern Moore communities like Whispering Pines, Aberdeen and Pinehurst have led to overcapacity issues at those schools. So we have kids in mobile classrooms, lunch times that drag out over two hours, and undersized gyms and libraries.
Meanwhile, there are schools in northern Moore that have room to spare. Their local communities have been dwindling over time and growing older, meaning fewer students.
So the redistricting plan that Moore County Schools released nine days ago is overdue. As we have said previously, we support the need to redistrict and, generally, support the overall nature of this plan.
Is this first draft perfect? Is the first draft of anything perfect? No, of course not. The discussions that ensued in public forums last week will ultimately make a better second draft next month. And subsequent examinations will refine it further as it moves to a completed work.
Most of those who oppose the plan are parents whose children would attend the new Southern Pines Elementary instead of Pinehurst Elementary; and parents whose kids would attend Southern Middle in Aberdeen instead of West Pine Middle in West End.
Both Pinehurst Elementary and West Pine Middle have better “grades” as determined by a battery of state statistics on testing and achievement. Their N.C. Report Cards are both “B,” while Southern Middle recorded a “D” on its N.C. Report Card for 2017.
“I’m thinking my child’s getting a new school at Pinehurst Elementary to solve the overcrowding, and now my child is going to a new school in Southern Pines,” said one parent last week. “Now what do I do? I’m stuck in a mortgage and you’re telling me to send my kid to a totally different town.”
Other parents were worried about their children going to school with less opportunities. One parent worried his child, who participates in orchestra, would be moved to North Moore High, which doesn’t offer orchestra.
“What if we’re forced there and you don’t get enough students to offer these programs?” asked Kevin Needham. “It would seem more fair to taxpayers in the county that every school offers the same stuff.”
Constructive Input Will Help
While these are all valid concerns, perspective is needed, especially given the super-heated rhetoric and speculation on social media.
First, Moore County does not have any “inner-city schools.” Are there schools with fewer programs than others currently? Yes. Schools whose aggregated standardized test scores aren’t meeting some arbitrary objective that’s called “achievement”? Yes.
Each school also has strong, engaging teachers, active parent volunteers, caring support staff and digital learning tools.
By any measure, our children are learning and succeeding at high levels compared with years past. Higher graduation rates, higher extracurricular participation rates, greater academic success, stronger athletic performance — these are not the achievements of one or two schools.
We also cannot be swept up to focus on what the schools are now. We must, instead, believe in what they will become. As student populations balance out, as new students and new parents arrive, they will bring with them new desires and new energy. Just because a school lacks a debate team or orchestra does not mean it won’t have one in a year or two with the right demand.
This redistricting plan has improvements to be made. Solid, constructive input — and investment by families’ efforts — will ensure all Moore County Schools thrive.