Union County schools redistricting deadline passes

Union County parents had until Wednesday to inform the school district if they wanted to avoid a controversial redistricting plan – at least in the short term.

Redistricting shuffles students to different schools to deal with overcrowding.

The school board approved the first districtwide redistricting in a surprise vote in March. At the time, they allowed for a grandfathering option where high school students as well as rising fifth- and eighth- graders could remain in their current schools next year as long as they provided their own transportation.

Once students graduated from elementary or middle school, they would be redistricted.

Redistricting impacts 5,800 of the district’s 41,800 students, or about 14 percent of the total population. If everyone eligible for grandfathering accepted that option, the redistricting totals would drop next school year to about 3,000 students, school district spokesman Rob Jackson said.

It was not immediately clear when the district would know how many parents chose that option. But the district needs the information as it deals with bus schedules, classes and related logistical issues for the 2014-15 school year, Jackson said.

In an April letter to the parents or guardians of all 5,800 students affected, the district informed families about the reassignment plan and called it “an exciting opportunity for your child to benefit from attending an outstanding school whose mission is to provide a quality education to all students.”

Many parents do not share that enthusiasm.

They have sued to overturn the redistricting, claiming that the school board illegally approved the plan after developing it in secret. The district has denied the charges, and the case is pending in county court.

Parents also have expressed concern over the impact changing schools will have on their children. And they worry about longer bus rides for their kids, who might go to schools that are older or that have lower test scores.

A couple of parents involved in the lawsuit said they thought families who had the option to remain in their current schools would jump at that opportunity. But they cautioned that not everyone could take advantage of the plan.

“Sadly, for many parents, they don’t have the resources to provide transportation,” parent Kim Hillegas said. “It leaves out a whole segment of the population.”