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: