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Union School Board Considers Redistricting

Nearly 6,000 students in Union County could end up in different schools next year.  The Union County school board is considering a plan to re-draw attendance zones of many schools to ease overcrowding and make way for expected growth.  That has caused an uproar among parents. 

  Union County has a handful of schools the district deems over core capacity. 

“There’s a point in time where safety comes into play,” says school board chairman Richard Yercheck. 

According to the district, those schools could no longer safely serve kids lunch or accommodate them during tornado drills, if they had to accept any more kids.  So the board has placed a cap on those schools.   They’re clustered in the southwestern part of the county.  The cap means people new to the area will have to send their kids to schools, in many cases, further away, at least until the school board comes up with another plan to ease overcrowding and accommodate future growth. 

“The board thought that as we were looking at the schools we were capping, then, looking at the potential schools we would be capping, that we should look at an overall plan for addressing overcrowding,” says Yercheck.   

That’s where the redistricting comes in.  Last week, the board got a look at a plan to re-draw attendance zones for many of the schools in Union County.  Yercheck says under the plan, 5,800 students would be zoned for different schools next year.  That would mean 37 schools would either gain or lose students and some bus rides would increase by several miles. 

Susie Evans is a parent of a third grader at Antioch Elementary.  That school doesn’t have a cap, but the district says it’s already reached its capacity.    

“We’ve sort of built the proverbial village that we talk about when it takes a village to raise a child, so it feels very painful to have that village ripped apart,” says Evans.    

The board won’t make its final decision until April.  This Thursday board members will also consider plans to make some schools year-round, but on a staggered system.  That means schools could fit more students by rotating them through classes and vacation at different times of the year.  And then there’s the possibility of asking the county commission to put bonds on the ballot to build new schools.  But that likely wouldn’t go over well, since the commission is already locked in a legal battle with the school board over funding.