Redistricting Report Issue 1 (Jan. 12, 2017)

Since its merger in 1992-93, the Durham Public Schools Board of Education has not undertaken any system-wide redistricting measures.  Only when a new school or program opened has redistricting occurred on a limited basis.  Today, multiple factors are creating a need to consider a large-scale redistricting effort once again.  Enrollment trends and capacity conditions vary widely depending on the grade level, the facility and the program at each school.  In 2011, the board approved a guiding principle for student assignment that suggests taking action if space utilization at a school dips below 85%.  Currently, 11 schools are below the 85% threshold and 5 more are below 90%.  At the same time, 9 schools are exceeding capacity at 105% or more.

Challenges are many in determining how to restore balance and use our facilities effectively.  Schools that are adjacent to each other cannot share more students if they are both already over capacity.  Further, it is unreasonable to seek relief from schools that are miles apart, essentially leapfrogging over other school zones.  Also, transportation is already a complex service at DPS due to ample choices for families. Lastly, external factors such as charter schools are impacting enrollment as well.  In short, managing and planning with accuracy and certainty is nearly impossible.

As we look at the system, we can identify several key problems or issues:

  • Middle schools are dwindling in enrollment at an alarming rate;
  • Elementary schools have islands of great overcrowding as well as pockets of under-utilization;
  • High schools are once again growing in enrollment.
  • Regionally, residential building and growth has remained a problem in southwest Durham.
While the annual fluctuations are greater at the elementary, middle and high school grade levels, the overall K-12 enrollment has been steadier.  Historically, DPS enrollment grew by one to two percent annually.  Recent years are now revealing a slight decline.  Since 2008-09, the net increase in K-12 is only 778 students.  (See Figure 1)
 
 Figure 1

 

Middle Schools

Our most pressing concern as a group is middle schools.  Together, the middle school capacity rating has dropped to 86%.  Roughly half of the schools are under the 85% utilization threshold.
 
Figure 2  
 
With enrollment in Grades 6-8 dropping sharply, (See Figure 2) an aggressive approach or solution to facility utilization is needed.  There are 6 middle schools with districts – Brogden, Carrington, Lucas, Neal, Lowe’s Grove and Githens.

Elementary Schools

Of DPS’ elementary facilities, 5 of the 30 elementary schools are currently under 85%.  Five more are under 90% while 7 are over 105%.  Enrollment at elementary schools has been steady overall with minor ups and downs each year (See Figure 5).  Given the number of sites, looking at specific areas as groups or pairs may be the best way to resolve an imbalance.  Examples of targeted areas might include Creekside/Parkwood, Glenn/Eno Valley or any grouping of inner city schools.
 
True at any grade level, active management of the enrollment and transfer process must be in place in order to ensure the goals of redistricting are met and upheld.  Failure to enforce rules and limits will undermine any positive effects from this massive effort.
 
Figure 5  
 
As DPS prepared for the 2016 bond referendum, it was desired to include the construction of New Elementary “C” in south Durham. However, bond money was limited and tough choices had to be made, leaving that facility to wait another year or two.
 
This study will look at elementary school conditions overall but will focus on several specific locations or regions due to their well-known conditions already. Creekside Elementary has been consistently overcrowded for its entire service.  Glenn is routinely overcrowded and Southwest has been as well.  Parkwood – once serving over a thousand students – has been underutilized in recent years. Several inner-city schools are under-enrolled but have historical impacts and issues to mitigate.
 
The following elementary schools are likely focal points for specific adjustments to current district lines. These pairs or groups have either a chance to share and solve a problem area or constitute a grouping that share the same condition and don’t have the opportunity to solve it with an adjacent district.
  • Mangum/Little River
  • Glenn/Eno Valley
  • Creekside/Parkwood/Bethesda
  • Holt/Easley
  • Spaulding/Pearson/Fayetteville Street
  • Morehead/Watts
  • Hope Valley/Forest View/Southwest/Lakewood
This redistricting study will look at all school districts but look mostly at solving current imbalances.

High Schools

DPS high schools have seen an increase in enrollment in recent years.  (See Figure 6.)  In 2007, the administration prepared to build a new high school due to overcrowding at Riverside and Jordan. However, overcrowding subsided enough to postpone the new school yet, today, the increase is once again an issue.
 
Figure 6  
 
With the passage of the 2016 Bond, a new Northern High School will be built on its existing site.

Charter Schools

In 2015-16, thirteen Durham-based charter schools served 6,105 students.  This enrollment is almost one-sixth of our DPS enrollment.  If these students attended DPS schools, more facilities would be needed.  A fourteenth charter school has been approved in Northern Durham and is expected to continue the drain on DPS enrollment.  Roughly 20 other charters outside of Durham County pull even more students from DPS’ base.
 
In 2017-18, KIPP will add 90 students as it continues to expand.  Discovery, the newest charter, is aiming for 352 students in its first year.

Ethnicity

The 2015-16 breakdown of ethnicity for DPS is as follows:
 
 American Indian 0.33%
 Asian 2.40%
 Hispanic 28.48%
 Black 47.56%
 White 18.29%
 Multi-Racial 2.85%
 Pacific Islander 0.09%
 
The percentage of Hispanic enrollment has been on the rise while white enrollment has declined.  The percentage of black enrollment has reduced slightly from the mid-50% range.  Only Mangum (83%) and Easley (53%) are greater than 50% white.  Little River follows up at 49% white while Morehead is at 43% and Watts is at 41%.
 
Five years ago (2011-12), the ethnicity breakdown was slightly different.  Primarily, black enrollment was higher at 51.3%.
 
Of the thirteen charter schools in Durham, two are over 50% white – Voyager is 67% and Central Park is 61%.
 

Chronology of Events

Year 2017

January - February
  • Study Data and Rough Out Scenarios
January 5
  • Academic Services Work Session
January 12
  • Operational Services Work Session
  • Present Redistricting Project Overview to Board
March – April
  • Hold Meetings for Internal and External
June – August
  • Finalize Proposed Changes and Complete Presentations to the Board
September - October
  • Approve Changes, Implement 2018-19

Summary

DPS has largely maintained its school district boundaries the same since merger.  Only when a new school was constructed or similar major change, were line shifts considered and only then in a limited manner.  After 24 years, the system is now a collection of outdated districts, with a long list of options, services and programs.  It is time to make bold decisions, take bold steps and implement the most efficient and effective utilization of our school facilities.
 
To that end, the administration has contracted with Numerix, LLC, a consultant well versed in the assignment arena in North Carolina school systems.  Mr. Mike Miller is a veteran of ITRE/Ored at NC State and continues to serve regional systems which undergo much more frequent redistricting than DPS has done.
 
As we move through this process, some solutions may be ready to implement sooner than others.  It is not anticipated that any changes to district lines occur before the 2018-19 school year.  Ample time to seek community input as well as staff and administrative reviews is critical.  Also, decisions will need to be timely in regard to magnet lotteries and enrollment deadlines so that families can make informed decisions.
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