[More in the February Gazette here.]
Music teaching and library services at Crozet Elementary School will go from full-time to part-time next year now that the school’s student population has dropped to 287.
County schools Chief Operating Officer Josh Davis laid the situation out to an attentive and alarmed crowd of parents at a PTO meeting in the school’s library Dec. 13.
“Three hundred [students] is a plateau in staffing,” he explained. “Below 300 you don’t have full-time positions in some areas.” He said school data predicts that the roll count will stay at 287 beyond next year too.
Davis said parents could support a suggestion from Assistant Superintendent Billy Haun that the policy threshold be dropped to 285.
Parents judged that as still too close for comfort and were wary.
One parent wondered if families now homeschooling could be approached about coming to public school.
Ravi Respeto said the staffing drop, to a level Crozet has not known in years, results in “a sharp disparity in services between Crozet and Brownsville Elementary. The culture of our school is being affected.
“We’re also concerned that we are losing enrichment services as we see the number of free and reduced lunch kids grow,” she said.
Some parents worried that Crozet might become seen as the lesser of the two town grade schools and that might affect property values and sales.
Another parent wondered if the areas along Brown’s Gap Turnpike and in White Hall that were redistricted in 2008 out of Crozet’s attendance zone into Meriwether Lewis Elementary’s zone could be shifted back to Crozet. Meriwether Lewis foresaw a similar staffing cut in its future at the time. Davis said Meriwether is now actually operating above its capacity.
Answering a question, Davis noted that the student population at Brownsville is growing and is expected to top 700 kids within three years. New school-age children moving into Old Trail will all go to Brownsville.
PTO vice president Monica Brooks reported to the group that Brownsville PTO leaders “are fully aware and have reached out us.” There was reportedly a suggestion from Brownsville leaders that the schools might declare themselves sister schools.
A 12-person subcommittee of the Crozet PTO has formed to fix the problem. It meets Jan. 5 to organize and will describe a game plan to the full PTO Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.
For historical reasons related to when they were built, some neighborhoods along Rt. 240 east to go Crozet school, such as Highlands, and some, such as Western Ridge and Wickham Pond, go to Brownsville.
One solution would be to send all those neighborhoods that tie into Rt. 240 to Crozet school. No one knew how many children that really amounts to, but assumed it would get them back over the 300 student threshold. If it didn’t harm staffing counts at Brownsville to lose that many students, the move might gain Brownsville more time at the size it is.
Shifts in the attendance zone boundary between Crozet and Brownsville schools have a long history. In the most recent move, neighborhoods along Jarmans Gap Road shifted to Brownsville.
PTO members remembered that when the redistricting for Meriwether was done three years ago it was officially enacted over the spring and in effect for the next school year.