Redistricting not a viable option

Published 7:17 pm Friday, May 5, 2017


At Monday’s Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting, the issue of school redistricting was brought to the forefront.

Commissioner Hood Richardson spoke up in support of possibly bussing students from more crowded schools to attend less crowded schools. He cited a study from several years ago, in which it was determined that Beaufort County Schools has 9,000 seats available, but only 7,000 students to fill them.

“We should find a way to move students into these empty seats in schools,” Richardson said Monday, adding that building more schools is not the way the county needs to go.

Richardson’s suggestion isn’t necessarily a bad one, and attempts to save money are always welcome. But his suggestion also fails to consider all of the factors involved in making a decision such as this.

There are many unfunded mandates coming down the pipe from the North Carolina General Assembly. The latest debate centered around lower class sizes, an issue that will likely involve the need for more teachers and more space to accommodate smaller classes. This could certainly pose a problem for schools that have no more room for these extra teachers and rooms. That sizeable problem should be tackled before talk of redistricting begins.

Also, the very geography of Beaufort County makes the prospect of redistricting a more difficult task. The schools with lower populations are located in more rural areas, such as Pinetown and Aurora. Moving students either from Washington or from the other side of the river to another school isn’t efficient. Students bussed from Washington to Northside High, for example, are in for a 35-minute ride, not to mention the potential distance of a bus driver’s route across one side of the county, which could span 50 miles in one morning.

Shuffling only some grade levels as opposed to others could also pose a problem — a messy one, at that.

At this point, Beaufort County Schools needs to stick with its current districting and let the chips fall where they may. With so many upcoming changes and an overall declining population, the county’s schools may make a problem worse by trying to rearrange.