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Union County School Board OKs Controversial Redistricting Plan

Lisa Miller

Union County’s school board, in a surprise vote, approved a controversial redistricting plan Tuesday night before a raucous, upset crowd.During the vote, parents booed and yelled, “No,” “You disgust me” and “How dare you.” Some were escorted out of the meeting room, while others left in tears. Parents have been worried about the disruption for their children, having them attend lower-performing schools or seeing their property values drop.

The meeting agenda did not indicate a final vote would take place Tuesday but rather said there would be “discussion of options to alleviate overcrowding.”

Redistricting is meant to combat overcrowding. Before it was modified Tuesday, Union’s first countywide redistricting would have required about 5,800 out of 41,800 students, some 14 percent of the total population, to switch schools.
The new plan roughly affects about 3,200 students, school board Chairman Richard Yercheck said, or nearly 8 percent overall. When asked why the board voted Tuesday night, he said, “The majority of the board was comfortable with the information that they had, that redistricting was the right thing to do, with the amendments put forth tonight.”

“It’s the right thing to do for all 42,000 children and the taxpayers of Union County,” Yercheck said.

The plan was amended to exempt current fourth-graders, seventh-graders and all high school students, as long as they provided their own transportation to school. Students would be redistricted after they finish elementary or middle school.

After that amendment was passed, one board member who voted against it, Vice Chair Marce Savage, walked out. After the meeting, Savage said she did not want to dignify the meeting with her presence.

She said she was stunned and blindsided by the vote. “This was planned. We got shanghaied” by other board members. Savage said other board members were not being honest with parents, since they said a vote on the issue was expected April 1.

Another approved amendment said a Waxhaw community, Millbridge, could remain in the Cuthbertson school cluster if a new residential road is built there. The vote was met by groans from the crowd.

Board member Sherry Hodges was the lone no vote on the final plan.

Three of the district’s 53 schools already are at maximum capacity and have had their enrollment capped this school year. Earlier in the night, the school board again rejected a $3 million offer from county commissioners to purchase mobile classrooms to help ease overcrowding.