School zone plan tweaked

Published 9:39 pm Monday, February 17, 2014

School district officials have responded to concerns over a rezoning proposal for Pioneer Elementary School with an alternative that includes more territory to the southeast and other areas.

The alternative plan, presented to the Suffolk School Board last week by Terry Napier, the district’s facilities and planning director, is bounded in the north by Indian Trail instead of the railway, and turns south at Kenyon Road.

All students on Indian Trail would attend the new elementary school, as would students on Manning Bridge Road, parts of Turlington Road, Lawson Circle, Bentley, Charlotte and Art Ray drives, Whaleyville Boulevard and part of Carolina Road. Students along part of Copeland Road, Babbtown Road and a portion of White Marsh Road would attend Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

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Some parents from Cherry Grove Road, Adams Swamp Road and Indian Trail had protested that the original proposal would see their children bused across town to Booker T. Washington instead of attending the new school.

“What we essentially have done here is pushed the northern boundary … up toward the Indian Trail and Buckhorn area,” bringing in 23 extra students, Napier told the School Board during last week’s meeting.

Napier also presented statistics on how the proposals would alter proportions of white versus black students in affected schools, which also include Elephant’s Fork and Kilby Shores.

For instance, the new school would be 23.2-percent black under the original proposal and 22.5-percent black under the alternative, which would also increase Booker T. Washington’s mix from 88.3 to 90.5-percent black.

Changes would be “statistically insignificant” for either proposal, Napier said, adding, “We don’t feel uncomfortable about that as far as racial makeup.”

Board member Enoch Copeland said, “We had an ear to the concerns that were heard. We tried to address it, and we did address it.”

The board is expected to approve a rezoning plan at the March 13 meeting. Until then, details of both proposals are posted on the school district’s website, where parents can post feedback.

Pioneer Elementary School, which replaces Southwestern and the already shuttered Robertson elementary schools, is scheduled to open in the fall with about 575 students.