The first draft of a plan to draw new school district lines for Craven County schools was unveiled to Craven County Board of Education members on Tuesday afternoon.


The first draft of a plan to draw new school district lines for Craven County schools was unveiled to Craven County Board of Education members on Tuesday afternoon.



The board has not yet discussed the draft plan or determined when the new redistricting would take effect. The plan affects where hundreds of students would attend elementary and middle school.



Board members offered little discussion of the proposed changes.



“This is a presentation of initial information; there are no decisions,” said Carr Ipock, board chairman.



There would be plenty of time for discussion once members have had a chance to look more closely at the draft, he said.



Superintendent Lane Mills said the proposal would be posted on school system’s website at www.craven.k12.nc.us.



School district lines in Craven County have not been totally redrawn in more than two decades. Despite some tweaks and new school construction, board members and system staff began to see student numbers – currently at about 14,560 - and space becoming more lopsided.



They decided to look at realigning the whole district and recruited the help of an Operations Research/Education Lab from the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at N.C. State University.



The board wanted to redraw lines to better use the space it has rather than build new schools while still trying to preserve neighborhood schools and community identities.



Consultants Rob Kimball and Mike Miller used parameters set by the board to do a computerized plan to give members and staff information to make data-based decisions. The recommendations in the draft were generated using schools proximity, school utilization, current student residence locations, existing school capacities and transportation safety and efficiency. 



Realignments were drawn to attendance zones to decrease distance traveled, relieve overcrowding, and provide for growth capacity along the U.S. 70 corridor.



Even with those parameters in place, and looking at a forecasted loss of 978 students system-wide in the next decade, Kimball said, some subjective but logical changes were made. 



The negative growth forecast alone would take care of some of the overcrowding concerns, but school boundaries at elementary and middle schools would be most affected in the draft plan, with the central elementary schools inside New Bern most affected.



The number of students at those four schools now has utilization varying from 72 percent to 117 percent. The new district goal is to average 95 percent utilization. 



Also, Kimball said, “In some areas, students within a radius of only a few blocks are assigned to three or more different schools,” and the realignment would address that.



Schools in Western Craven County would be least affected by the new lines. 



District lines for Bridgeton would move slightly north to relieve overcrowding at Vanceboro Farm-Life Elementary School.



Havelock district lines would extend west to include areas such as the Riverdale area near the Neuse Harbor and River Bluffs subdivisions under the proposal.



Satellite districts would be eliminated in the redistricting plan and boundaries like bridges would remain in the equation for district design.



Ipock said that however new lines are ultimately drawn they “potentially affect many families and students and would be culture changes for schools. There are big considerations we will have to work with before we come to any kind of decision.”



The board meets next at 6 p.m. Thursday in the New Bern High School Commons Area. Regular business includes work on a schedule for the redistricting plan, including meetings in various locations in the county whereresidents can comment.



There also will be other ways for those with suggestions and concerns to communicate them to the board as they consider how best to redistrict, Mills said.



Ipock and Vice Chairman Linda Thomas and board member Kim Rice Smith of Havelock all said after the meeting that it has not yet been determined when the redistricting plan would be completed or what year it would be implemented.



Sue Book is a reporter for the Sun Journal.