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Board Approves Halt to Redistricting Process for 2025-2026, Action Steps

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ORANGE COUNTY SCHOOLS
June 26, 2024
Contact: Kevin Smith, (336) 212-0125

NEWS RELEASE:

Update on Redistricting Process for 2025-2026 in Orange County Schools

The Redistricting and Student Reassignment process for elementary school attendance zones in Orange County Schools will stop effective immediately for the 2025-2026 school year, after the Board of Education approved a set of recommendations by Superintendent Dr. Danielle Jones.

At the June 24, 2024 meeting of the Orange County Board of Education, Dr. Jones reported on her findings after meeting with families, staff, and principals, about a process that has been underway since 2022. The Board accepted her recommendation to stop redistricting, based on that review and an analysis of current and future needs of the district’s schools and families.

Dr. Jones summarized the current redistricting process which started in the fall of 2022, made necessary in part by rapid growth and development in western Orange County. With enrollment at Efland-Cheeks Global Elementary at or over capacity and trending higher, spot reassignments to other schools below capacity initially gave limited relief of overcrowding. 

Construction at Efland-Cheeks required mobile classrooms for “swing space” in 2023, and the new extra capacity alleviated the immediate need for space. However, New Hope and River Park Elementary Schools were also forecast to exceed capacity in less than ten years, and the district originally looked at new attendance zones to start in the 2024-2025 school year. 

In December 2023, the Board resolved to delay redistricting until the 2025-2026 school year, and to restart those efforts in the spring of 2024 to give ample time for study and feedback. 

With a growing list of high-priority facility needs and unknowns related to the forthcoming school bond, Dr. Jones asked principals and staff to step back and review “building utilization,” or how each classroom is used, to better understand the capacity needs of each school.

Building capacity data is provided by Woolpert, a consulting firm that reviewed the size, quality, and age of facilities to provide a facility conditions assessment for long-range capital planning. OREd (Operations Research and Education Laboratory) generates 10-year enrollment trend data based on assignment areas, birth rates, and future development.

Principals walked their schools to take an inventory of all classroom spaces and established building utilization plans, based on projected 2024-2025 enrollment and how many core classes are needed at each grade level. Utilization plans may be expected to change from year to year, even mid-year, depending on enrollment at each grade level.

OCS staff reviewed these building utilization plans and applied state-mandated classroom caps to calculate each school’s “adjusted capacity.,” These figures were brought to the volunteer Advisory Council of elementary staff and families, to evaluate how various attendance zone scenarios impact schools. Note: Hillsborough Elementary has no attendance zone and is not involved in redistricting.

Following two meetings with the Advisory Council and additional time to reflect with staff, the Superintendent brought the following recommendations to the Board on June 24:

  • Stop redistricting for 2025-2026, and review attendance zones annually per Board Policy 4150.
  • Continue studying building utilization – how every classroom space is used – preferably twice a year.
  • Re-open transfers at Central Elementary and Pathways Elementary, currently closed to transfers during redistricting.
  • Focus on the 2024 school bond, to reduce the average age and increase overall quality of OCS facilities, aiming at permanent solutions to serve students in every school.

Dr. Jones closed with a recap of four pillars for student assignment in Board Policy 4150. The first pillar, Student Achievement, states that “student populations at each school will provide an optimal opportunity for academic success for all students.”

“It’s not just about building utilization and capacity and spreading students across schools,” said Dr. Jones. “It’s also about balancing our schools in terms of student achievement,” and pursuing the Board’s goals of diversity and community in setting attendance zones.

“We do know that there’s still some work to do in those areas,” Dr. Jones continued. “But at the same time, we don’t have large ranges as far as historical data. There is still work to do, and we don’t want to minimize that.” 

In asking the Board to wrap up the process now underway, Dr. Jones cited the Board’s pillar of Stability and the goal of reducing disruptions in each child’s relationship to their school community:

“That’s where we’re focused right now. We have a bond referendum coming, and we don’t believe that moving students multiple times would be fair to our families.” 

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The OCS web page for Redistricting and Reassignment has been updated to reflect this status. Archived documents remain posted for reference, until further information on annual and semi-annual processes becomes available.