On Thursday, the Alexandria City School Board voted to extend the redistricting process into the fall of 2016 in order to be able to deliver accurate details around the location of the new West End school, School Board polices that will affect redistricting and finalization of the ACPS and City budgets before new school boundaries are drawn.
Both the location of a new school in the West End and whether the City will be able to fund it will not be known until late May. Decisions around moving pre-K to a new central location will also be finalized around the same time.
While the adjusted timeline alters the schedule for decision points in the process, it does not change the final implementation date for new boundaries. The implementation of new school boundaries is still planned for the start of the 2017-18 school year.
The intention of this adjustment is to make the redistricting work more efficient and effective by providing all the necessary information to the Review Committee at one time. It does not affect the overall outcome. We will still be implementing new boundaries according to the timeline approved in November by the School Board,” said Ramee Gentry, School Board Member and Chair of the Redistricting Steering Committee.
The recommendation to extend the timeline came out of a mid-project report compiled by the contracted independent third party. Under the adjusted timeline, the School Board is scheduled to vote on recommendations put forward by the Redistricting Review Committee in December 2016 or early January 2017.
The School Board holds high standards that all projects are done properly by defining and adjusting processes when necessary to achieve the best outcome. It is critical that we think through the redistricting process carefully and implement it thoughtfully. In this case, the mid-project review done by the former and current Steering Committees recommended that the timeline be adjusted so the School Board can define policy, budget and GIS criteria through the spring,” said School Board Chair Karen Graf.
The ability to draw new boundaries for all elementary schools across Alexandria City Public Schools is highly dependent on concrete data. Solid data ensures that the geographic information system (GIS) work needed to draw boundaries is more accurate, and permits ACPS and the 35-member Redistricting Review Committee to take a holistic division-wide approach to the project.
The report recommended that the timeline be extended into the fall and the majority of the GIS work be carried out between September and December in order to implement it in a way that works for the division as a whole.
Much of the other preparatory work needed to facilitate the GIS work, such as the review of School Board policies affecting redistricting, will continue to be undertaken between now and the fall. The adjusted timeline sees policy work by the School Board taking place between now and May. The School Board will review policies including grandfathering or phasing-in, class sizes and transfers prior to the implementation of new boundaries.
Staff will also use the same period between February and May to determine the site of the West End school, the location of a centralized pre-K program and the location of any swing space that may be required.
The Redistricting Review Committee will be updated on the final criteria in June, and will then begin the GIS work required to draw new boundaries in earnest in the fall. The School Board has amended the criteria for membership of the Redistricting Review Committee to allow those currently serving to continue into the next school year to ensure continuity.
The Redistricting Steering Committee will continue to hold regular meetings throughout the entirety of the process. All meetings are open to the public.