Committee begins work with firm to redistrict elementary, middle schools


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The talk is on after the New Hanover County schools redistricting committee met for the first time Wednesday. The committee is tasked with solving the redrawing of district maps for the 2020-2021 school year.

School officials hired the firm Cropper GIS to help draw the new maps. You can see the interactive maps currently drafted for elementary and middle school redistricting here. The need for redistricting schools comes from the inclusion of a new elementary school in Porter’s Neck.

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The two drafts before the committee would move roughly 3,700 to 4,000 students.

“What’s important, obviously your diversity, obviously we want to address any overcrowding, but for now looking at those maps and get a specific feel of where we are going,” said committee chair David Wortman.

The committee consists of school administrators, school board members as well as community members. Emma Jackson was selected to join the committee after Tuesday nights board of education meeting. The board selected her because of backlash following the announcement that three community members were selected out of 63 to help with the committee’s decision. All three people chosen happened to be white, excluding input from the African-American community according to those in attendance.

“We need to be represented so you can best know what our needs are so you can serve our needs,” said Camelia Albright.

Jackson joins the committee with previous experience redistricting lower grad level schools as well as 50 years within the school system.

“I feel like I have a very good grasp of the needs of our children and so I’ve just been involved with redistricting for such a long time so I have a pretty good idea,” said Jackson.

Cropper GIS has helped multiple school systems with redistricting. The Wednesday meeting was the start of a 5 month process to decide on moving elementary and middle school students. Firm creator Matthew Cropper said the two options given before the committee were rough drafts based on geographic data.

“We are a diverse society and our schools need to fit what kind of society that we are here,” said Williston principal Ron Villines who sits on the committee.

Cropper’s estimates showed that most of the schools in the central portions of the county would see changes. This was focused on the elementary schools because Cropper said the middle school data needed to be adjusted to properly calculate redistricting. Cropper says the data they collected showed that on average the district as a whole had schools at 102% capacity. That takes into account the schools over capacity and the ones below it.

“They’re not the end all be all there’s going to be probably another option or two than what was presented to us today,” said Villanes.

After the meeting, the committee asked Cropper GIS to rework the numbers to try and include ways to have lower impacts on students as well as incorporate pairing districts. That would mean if a student has to move to alleviate overcrowding at one school, that student would go to a neighboring school district so the move would not be too much for the family.

The next meeting is set for August 20 at the Board of Education building. Community feedback can be given on the firm’s website.