Recent UCPS action stirs up redistricting critics

Artist rendering of the Cuthbertson cluster redistricting. Image courtesy of UCPS

Artist rendering of the Cuthbertson cluster redistricting. Image courtesy of UCPS

Members of the group Citizens for Adequate Public Schools, or CAPS, are up in arms after the Union County Public School Board of Education made minor changes to the redistricting maps approved in March.
UCPS Board of Education Chairman Richard Yercheck said minor “clean-ups” are standard for the redistricting process, as the school system begins to draw bus routes and find redundancies.
“Whenever you change lines you are going to find, once the lines are set, that there is an outlier here and there and for efficiency reasons you need to adjust those,” Yercheck said.
But some parents involved in CAPS say UCPS is just “covering its tracks,” and some say the current maps don’t align with those approved by the school board. The board voted to approve the changes at its July 8 meeting, which Yercheck said only affects about nine children outside of the Millbridge subdivision in Waxhaw. The school board voted during its original vote earlier this year to keep the subdivision together after original redistricting proposals split the neighborhood. Some alterations had to be made to the maps in order to accommodate this change.
Critics of the plan say that move warrants a harder look at what’s happening with the controversial issue.
“It has been brought to our attention by supporters within UCPS that the school redistricting maps being implemented as of today are not those that were voted on by the (UCPS Board of Education) in March or re-voted on just last week. As a result, a number of children may unknowingly attend unapproved schools next year under the current plan,” CAPS said in a news release.
The group went to court on Wednesday, July 16, for an injunction hearing in hopes of stopping the redistricting for the coming year and giving the lawsuit filed by CAPS against UCPS time to work itself out. The group filed a lawsuit in regard to open meeting law violations and a number of other issues that have since come to light, Aaron Asbra, an officer with CAPS, said before the injunction hearing. The results of the hearing were not available by Union County Weekly’s press deadline on Wednesday. See www.unioncountyweekly.com for more once a decision has been reached.
The board voted to approve the proposed redistricting plan in March, which shifts more than 3,300 students to new schools. School officials said the change needed to be made due to overcrowding at campuses and the limited ability of UCPS to build new schools at this time due to budget constraints. All rising fifth- and eight-graders, as well as all high school students, were grandfathered into their current schools, given they provide their own transportation.
UCPS held two public hearings prior to the March 4 vote, each four hours long. Nearly 100 parents, students and community members spoke in opposition to the changes, which move many students to schools further from their homes. Many community members claimed the redistricting was a “quick-fix” for a problem that needs more long-term planning. UCPS was on a capping policy prior to the redistricting where schools above 120 percent capacity would no longer accept new students and all students would have to be bused to another school. Schools such as Kensington Elementary and Marvin and Porter Ridge middle all were capped, with many more projected to see a cap put in place in the 2014-15 school year.
Five seats on the UCPS Board of Education are up for re-election this year – Districts 1, 3, 4 and 6 and one at-large seat. Filing for the positions is currently open until July 25, a Friday, at noon. Candidates must live in the district they are filed to run in, but at-large candidates can live anywhere in Union County. Find more information at co.union.nc.us/Government/BoardofElections.aspx.

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Ciera Choate

About Ciera Choate

Ciera Choate has been with the Union County Weekly since summer 2011 as an intern while she attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. After graduating with a degree in English and political science, Ciera joined the team full-time in early 2012. She has since been promoted to News Editor, with a main focus on town governments in western Union County, the Union County Board of County Commissioners and Union County Public Schools Board of Education, in addition to the paper's crime beat. Have a story idea or question for Ciera? Contact her at ciera@unioncountyweekly.com.

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