We have been — and remain — staunch advocates for the purpose and process by which Moore County Schools is trying to draw new attendance zones for all its schools.
While nothing has run as smoothly as intended, we believe genuinely that the staff, consultants and Board of Education are adhering to the guiding principles they put forward before beginning this process earlier in the spring.
The work has been open to comment and feedback, collaborative in nature and logical in its course.
With all that said, we nevertheless found ourselves last week disappointed in the district’s second “iteration” of a proposed attendance map. We say “iteration” because “draft 2” is not meant to replace “draft 1.” They are to be consumed and evaluated independently.
Since that is the case, we can say we are not as impressed by this second draft as we were with the first. It is less transformative in the good ways, and it has some significant weaknesses in others.
The overall stated purpose of redistricting is to improve school “utilization” but in so doing, “to the extent possible,” balance schools’ socioeconomic demographics and the proportion of students reading on grade level at each school.
Don’t Make Problems Worse
Upon release of the first draft in April, parents had multiple concerns about traffic patterns and travel times, feeder patterns and split communities, implementation times and strategies.
The updated redistricting proposal released earlier this month involves about half a dozen significant changes that ultimately represent reverting to the current attendance areas.
For instance, Aberdeen Elementary would have gone from 71 percent minority and 76 percent capacity to 65 percent minority and 71 percent capacity. Under draft 2, the minority population stays at about 70 percent but utilization rises to 80 percent.
At the middle school level, consider Southern Middle School. Currently 63 percent minority and operating at 97 percent capacity, draft 1 would have reduced its minority percentage to 51 percent but raised capacity to 111 percent. Under draft 2, minority percentage is 55 percent and 114 percent capacity.
Crowding is almost guaranteed for all of Moore’s middle schools, regardless of which draft. There’s just too many students to find meaningful change in building utilization.
At Southern’s crosstown “rival,” West Pine Middle, it is currently 25 percent minority and operating at 124 percent capacity. The first redistricting draft raised the minority population to 32 percent but reduced capacity to 95 percent. This latest plan takes West Pine Middle back to 25 percent minority and 92 percent capacity.
If the ultimate goal of redistricting is to improve building capacity utilization without exacerbating social demographics, then draft 2 seems to be inadequate.
Is ‘Possible’ Possible?
It could be, in the end, that Moore County Schools’ best of intentions and ambitions could simply not measure up to these words: “to the extent possible.” Those four words lead off each of the four “guiding principles” of redistricting. They act as a reasonable check to prevent us all from going off the rails, even though some opponents have done just that. Their needless, self-indulgent grandstanding to disrupt the process does no one any good, including themselves.
The school staff and Board of Education have the next few months to mull what they’re seeing and hearing and weigh it. Balancing student populations across the schools is essential. We simply have to do that to make efficient use of our assets. Some of the better schools in the county have room. We’re looking at you, Highfalls and Westmoore.
We’re confident improvements can be made. It will take work, collaboration, rational discourse and give and take — to the extent that’s all possible.