Thursday, August 18, 2022

WJCC schools plan to spend $150K on redistricting consultant

James Blair Middle School construction site on Ironbound Road. (Lisa Vernon Sparks/WYDaily)

With construction already underway to add a fourth middle school, the topic of redistricting once again has a place on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board’s agenda.

To that end, the schools division officials announced Thursday it is accepting proposals from firms which offer consulting services to help guide them with future school rezoning efforts.

The School Board has allocated $150,000 from its budget to cover the task, according to WJCC spokeswoman Betsy Overkamp-Smith.  Earlier in May the school division recently adopted its fiscal 2018 for  $141.9 million.

The board hopes to find a consultant to help facilitate public engagement, perform and conduct all required studies and analysis…make recommendations and develop reports and options, for either a middle school redistricting or a middle and high school redistricting, as stated in the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools RFP document.

The Williamsburg-James City County Public School division currently is comprised of 15 schools, including three middle schools, three high schools and nine elementary schools.

Demolition has begun at the site of the former James Blair Middle School. (Photo courtesy of WJCC Schools)

The new James Blair Middle School on Ironbound Road  — promoting the need to redistrict — will have capacity for 600 students with expansion capabilities to add another 300 students, according to School Board documents.

And come September 2018, hundreds of middle school or high school students or both, residing in James City County or Williamsburg may find themselves attending a different school.

With enrollment now teetering at 11, 700 and projections exceeding 12,000 by 2020, WJCC school officials say it’s one of the state’s most rapidly growing districts.

“New housing developments continue to be built and families with school-age children in those developments. The growth has put pressure on a school system that is at capacity at most of its school buildings,” according to background information obtained from the RFP.

Once all the proposals have been submitted, a committee comprised of WJCC division staff, the county purchasing director and other personnel will review the information and present it to the School Board, Overkamp-Smith said.

Final determinations and selections will come from the School Board, officials said.

Some redistricting goals include bringing the existing middle schools down to about 85 percent capacity, according to WYDaily archives.

Currently those locations, including Toano, Berkeley and Hornsby middle schools, are at at 99 percent or greater in capacity, according to school division documents.

At previous School Board meetings, some members have suggested one approach to redistricting would be to focus first on the middle school students, which includes sixth through eighth grades.  A consideration to redistrict high school or elementary school student could be a later plan, board members said.

WJCC schools have done redistricting on two other occasions in recent years — 2007 and 2010 — to ensure schools are at proper capacity.  Previous redistricting efforts have not gone smoothly, according to Overkamp-Smith.

Criteria used in previous redistricting have included considering neighborhood proximity, minimal neighborhood separation, capacity, minimal bus travel and district-wide balance in ethnic/socialeconomic diversity.

The School Board hasn’t decided the scope of the criteria it will use to determine which middle school and possibly high school and elementary students will need to change schools once James Blair is completed.

The deadline to submit questions pertaining to the request for proposal is 2 p.m. , May 29, as listed on the county website.

Submitted proposals are requested to be sealed with one original and six copies. These may be submitted to the James City County Purchasing Office not later than 2 p.m. on June 15.

WYDaily archives have been used in this story. 

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