Construction on a $20 million expansion that will add about 340 seats to Crozet Elementary School began earlier this summer and will wrap up in time for the 2022-23 school year. The county school division must now decide how best to redistrict students from Brownsville Elementary to Crozet to ease overcrowding and balance the two schools. Pat McLaughlin, the division’s Chief of Strategic Planning and a Crozet resident, will chair a ten-member redistricting committee that is expected to study the issue this fall from September to December.
The committee’s parameters and process were presented at the August 12 School Board meeting. The scope of the study will cover only Brownsville and Crozet Elementary Schools (i.e., it will not consider transfers to other western district schools such as Murray and Meriwether Lewis), and its guiding principles focus on contiguous attendance areas, walkability, efficient transportation routes, and demographic balance. The committee will include four representatives each from Brownsville and Crozet schools, and one representative each from the division’s Long Range Planning Advisory Committee and Office of Community Engagement.
“Anybody in the district can apply [for the school representative positions],” said McLaughlin, “though we obviously want to get folks that represent each of the school communities on the panel. Generally, those spots are filled by parents, not school staff—the staff’s role in the process is to bring information, advise, answer questions, things like that.” The division has put out a call for applications that can be found online at the k12albemarle.org site. Click on ‘For Families’ and then ‘Community Messages’ to find a link to the application, which is due by September 10.
“The call for applications will stay open for a couple of weeks, and then the Superintendent will create the committee,” said McLaughlin. “We’re hoping that by the end of September we will have our first meeting. We generally meet every two weeks until we come up with some scenarios, and once those are established, we will have at least one, probably two community meetings.” Typically, the division would hold a community meeting at each of the schools involved in the redistricting plan so that families from each school can easily attend, though McLaughlin said that this year’s meetings may have to be online depending on health department guidance this fall.
“After those meetings, the advisory committee will meet one more time to finalize the recommendation and then send that up to the Superintendent,” he said. “The Superintendent makes a recommendation to the School Board, and we hope to have it all wrapped up by the end of January so that transition activities can start taking place.” McLaughlin noted that there will likely be staffing implications as there will be fewer students at Brownsville and more at Crozet.
“There will be transition activities for the students who are moving to a different school,” he said, “to bring them in and let them get to know the school and the kids who they will be going to school with and the teachers and all of that. We’ll get that rolling in the spring.”
Notably, the redistricting committee does not make any recommendation on “grandfathering,” which allows some existing students to stay at the school they’ve been attending—for example, a rising fifth grader who just has one more year at their school and wishes to stay on. Those decisions are made solely by the School Board at the end of the process.
Update on Final Approval of Transgender Policy
Also at the August 12 meeting, the board voted to approve the division’s new transgender policy, which seeks to “help schools ensure the educational and social integration of transgender and gender-expansive students and to keep their learning environments safe and free from discrimination and harassment.”
School Board Attorney Ross Holden explained that one clarification was made to the policy’s language since it was first introduced at the board’s July 8 meeting. “The draft proposal contains a concern raised by Mr. Oberg [White Hall representative], who requested that the policy make clear that implementation of the policy will be the responsibility of the entire ACPS, including counselors, principals, and administrators, and not classroom teachers alone,” said Holden.
Oberg then spoke up to re-address another concern that he had raised previously regarding parental notification when a (minor) child has announced a gender transition to school staff or teachers. The draft policy stated “if the student does not want the school to contact the student’s parents, the school shall honor that request for privacy,” and the updated policy did not change that language.
“I very much support this policy, so I don’t want my comment to come across as I don’t support it,” said Oberg, “but the one provision which does give me pause is the paragraph that talks about the fact that the parents could be not informed. It doesn’t seem clear to me when that [notification] would take place and who would make that decision … and that causes me concern.”
Holden responded that the school officials will try to be as flexible as possible, but that “we do not want to put a child in danger, and … we would like to protect that confidentiality.”
Oberg reiterated his concern that the wording was “too amorphous,” and asked if there was “any other policy we have that’s like this, that we can lean on and say this is how this works.”
Superintendent Haas interjected to note that he relied on the division’s policy on student records to govern the interpretation of the transgender policy. While the student records policy outlines a parent’s right to inspect their child’s student records upon (written) request, it does not require that parents be informed of changes to a student’s record in all cases. “I don’t see anything in the policy that Mr. Holden drafted that conflicted with that policy,” said Haas. “We are not in violation of what we say in that other critical policy.” Mr. Oberg indicated he was satisfied with that response, and the new policy passed unanimously.