ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. – Declining student populations for Rockingham County Schools could mean redistricting and re-purposing in the 2018-2019 school year.
On Tuesday, the school district held a meeting at McMichael High School where leaders explained what was happening in the county, and had parents weigh in with an online survey afterwards.
They called this the “preliminary stage” when it comes to making decisions for the school system. Back in November, they hired researchers with NC State University to provide specific data and statistics to show what was happening in the county in terms of school population. Those findings show the Rockingham County School district is 4,000 students under capacity - with more set to leave every year for the next ten years.
With a declining population, the district says they need to reevaluate. One of the ways they can do that, and save money, is shut down some elementary schools and re-purpose the buildings.
Leaders showed parents the raw findings, but what they say it boils down to is almost all schools in the county are at 80 percent capacity, and in many cases – even less. Plus, since 2011, the student population has fallen every year.
“What we looked at tonight is what the computer model states,” said Assistant Superintendent Sonja Parks, “This is what [the consultants’] recommendations and findings represent. But it's so important to get community feedback. We want our parents to be involved in this process.”
Parents couldn't speak at tonight's meeting, but the school system says they'll have that opportunity later in the process. They say that’s because they're in the early stages, but they had the attendees fill out a survey after the information session.
By presenting all this information upfront, and online, school leaders say they are trying to be as transparent as possible.
The possible redistricting scenarios could involve the closure of Draper, Southend, and Dillard Elementary, but not until 2018.
Parents like Erica Lea are worried about changes down the line, but are glad they're getting to voice their opinions. She hopes more parents will join in.
“Be involved. Be involved, you can't make any changes if you don't stick up for it - just like voting,” she said.
There will be two more community focus group meetings on May 9 and May 16.