ONLINE UPDATE: WBS parents unite against redistricting

by Kelly Corbett
Friday, March 1, 2013

Representatives from the New Hanover County Board of Education and town of Wrightsville Beach came together for breakfast on Thursday, Feb. 28, to discuss options for the overcrowding at Wrightsville Beach Elementary School, including the proposed redistricting of Airlie Road area students.

School board chairman Don Hayes attended the breakfast with Town Manager Tim Owens, Mayor David Cignotti, alderman Bill Sisson, Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley, assistant superintendent for planning and operations Bill Hance and vice chair Jeannette Nichols on Thursday.

Hayes said in a previous breakfast with the county commissioners, the commissioners said they would like to see the bond referendum, including proposed WBS renovations, postponed for a year.

“Nothing has been done or said officially,” he said.

If the bond passed, he said the plans for WBS include expanding the cafeteria and media center.

“You’re talking four or five years down the road,” Hayes said.

Also on Thursday, WBS parents filled the cafeteria at the school to rally together before gathering to speak during the public comment portion of the upcoming school board meeting on March 5.

Before the meeting, John Allen, a Landfall resident and father a third-grade student, said at some point Landfall would be looked at too. His short-term solution is to work together and long-term is to get the bond referendum passed.

“All of this can be avoided,” he said. “… I’ve got this all figured out.”

Allen said the areas on the other side of the Heide Trask drawbridge are as much a part of Wrightsville Beach as those in Wrightsville Beach.

“We’re all unified,” he said. “It’s a community.”

During the meeting, parents emphasized the importance of emailing school board members and signing a petition opposing redistricting.

“We are much stronger when we are united.” Amy Jones said. “They don’t want to fight a group of parents that cannot be divided.”

Mark Johnson, a WBS parent and resident of the proposed redistricting area, said he would send out an email to all parents requesting a pledge to cover the additional estimated $20,000 to $30,000 in cost per trailer due to flood zone height requirements.

“What is it worth to keep your children here at school?” he asked.

Johnson said he would announce the total amount pledged at the school board meeting.

When redistricting becomes a topic of conversation, Hayes said it is typical for parents to come out and make accusations about other parents not living in the district.

He said some students do reside outside of the district and are there because of employee benefits, the Adequate Yearly Progress program and hardship issues.

There are seven sectors from WBS, with two from Wrightsville Beach and three from Landfall.

“The capacity of the school is say around 260, and right now we’ve got about 360 in there,” Hayes said. “To get it to capacity, you need to move about 100 students, so really moving Airlie Road doesn’t solve the problem.”

The Airlie Road area redistricting to Bradley Creek Elementary School would affect 64 students.

In addition to Airlie Road, Hayes said another option is to move other children, such as some of the children living in Landfall.

He said the main concern is the overcrowding countywide, including all of the schools in proximity to WBS.

Sisson said town officials shared concerns at the breakfast about the number of trailers at WBS, having more students in trailers than in the building classrooms and traffic concerns when parents are dropping off and picking up their children.

“From my point of view, it helped to hear what the school board can and can’t do,” Sisson said. “I didn’t sense any opposition from them at all.”

An update on the school by Markley is listed on the March 5 agenda, but the decision will likely not be made until the work session on March 19. The Board of Aldermen will hear from school officials again at their regular meeting on March 14, but Sisson said they are not anticipating voting on anything related to the overcrowding.

email kelly@luminanews.com

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