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Board to discuss redistricting plans

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Simpsonville parents hoping for alternative

By Nathan L. McBroom

Lora Floyd is still hoping her children won’t be sent to a different school next year.

Floyd, who has a kindergartener and second-grader at Simpsonville Elementary School, is one of the 35 local parents who were notified last month that their child might be redistricted to Southside Elementary School because of overcrowding at Simpsonville.

The proposed redistricting, which will effect close to 60 children, would take effect next school year.

Floyd and other parents were angered at the proposed change and are hoping for alternative solutions.

“We’re not happy about this at all,” she said. “And I think they need to look for other options.”

After being notified by letter, Floyd and other parents voiced their concerns to district personnel at a meeting at Southside earlier this month.

District personnel listened to the parents concerns and will discuss a possible alternative to the district’s original redistricting plan Thursday night at the Shelby County School Board meeting.

Gary Kidwell, director of student accounting and support services, said the district is trying to meet the needs of the parents and the entire district. Though other options will be discussed, Kidwell is not sure if the district will solve Simpsonville’s population problem without redistricting. 

“We certainly want to accommodate them as best we can,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, there is still an overcrowding problem at Simpsonville, and something has to give somewhere.”

He said the district is looking for a lasting solution to the problem and not a year-to-year fix.

Kidwell would not elaborate on the details of the new proposal. But said the details will be made public at this Thursday night’s meeting.

Though the board always allows public input, Kidwell said public input was not being solicited for Thursday’s discussion.

The district's current plan calls for Simpsonville Elementary school students who live in parts of Finchville to be reassigned to Southside Elementary School.

Superintendent James Neihof said, though the plan calls for major changes, the problem must be addressed.

"The school is currently at 102 percent of its capacity," he said. "Something has to be done."

In 2006 when the district opened Southside, the school board adopted a redistricting policy in anticipation of dealing with overcrowding problems in the future around the district.

Under the policy, when any of Simpsonville, Clear Creek, or Painted Stone Elementary schools exceeds 102 percent capacity, the district will reassign students to Southside.

Simpsonville, which is the fastest growing part of the county, has seen a steady population increase over the past 10 years.

This policy is designed to help the district even out its student capacity until the district's new elementary school is opened in the 2012.

Neihof said the students selected to be redistricted were chosen based on their proximity and ease of transportation to Southside.

In a memo sent out last week, said the reassignment could actually cut down on the time many students ride the bus. 

"The move will not only balance the enrollment at Simpsonville, it will also create a more efficient transportation route for the affected families," he wrote.

Earl Daily, a parent of a kindergartener at Simpsonville, said his major concern with the redistricting is academic.

Daily said, according to the academic statistics, going to Southside would be a step down for his daughter's education.

“I hear good things about Southside,” he said. “But every year Simpsonville’s test scores are among the best, and Southside's are at the bottom.” 

In past years, Simpsonville has ranked among the highest scoring elementary schools in the district while Southside has been among the lowest.

Several parents expressed concerns over Southside's academic standards.

Neihof said their concerns were unfounded. He said the quality of education available at the Southside is “second-to-none” in the district. He said he would have no reservations sending his own child there.

If Simpsonville and Southside are redistricted, it could mean that their test scores on the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System are combined next year.