As Carmel Clay Schools prepares for redistricting, it will follow four priorities approved by the school board at its Sept. 29 meeting.
To the greatest extent possible, CCS will:
- Assign students to their closest school
- Balance school facilities relative to capacity, taking into consideration a demographic study that predicts areas of student population growth and decline
- Keep neighborhoods and subdivisions intact
- Transition entire elementary schools to the same middle school
District officials anticipate no problems keeping elementary populations together as they move to middle schools, but they don’t expect the redistricting plan to adhere to the other three priorities in every case. For example, students who live near schools at higher capacities may be redistricted to the second-closest school.
The redistricting process is necessitated by the addition of Clay Center Elementary, which will open in the fall of 2021. It replaces Orchard Park Elementary, which is 5 miles away and will close after the 2020-21 school year.
CCS Associate Supt. Roger McMichael said even without the addition of a new campus, it was nearing time to redistrict in part because of growing student populations on the west side of the district. Redistricting last occurred in 2014.
CCS is paying Ohio-based planning firm Cooperative Strategies $50,000 to assist with the redistricting process. Previously, CCS handled it internally. The district hired Cooperative Strategies before the COVID-19 crisis began, and with the unexpected task of managing a district through a pandemic, officials are glad they did.
“If we had to do all the work we have to do for redistricting now in the middle of this pandemic, it would be very, very taxing,” CCS Supt. Michael Beresford said. “I can’t imagine how we’d get through that.”
McMichael said any student could be impacted by redistricting, not just those affected by the closure of Orchard Park.
“A redistricting process is a domino effect,” he said. “We don’t know yet the extent and the number of students that might get redistricted, but we would encourage parents to track the process, and certainly we welcome their input.”
CCS is forming focus groups of 10 to 12 people to provide input on redistricting options before plans are presented in community meetings. Focus groups include one for principals, one for district administrators, nine for parents and two for nonparent community members. Group members will be randomly selected from those who applied by Sept. 28.
Focus groups are expected to meet Oct. 8 to 12. Community presentations will be made Nov. 3 to 5, with a presentation of the preferred option to the school board Nov. 23. The board is expected to vote on the final plan Dec. 14.
The community presentations will be held in-person in the Carmel High School auditorium and streamed online. Only 150 people will be allowed to attend in-person at each session, which is 10 percent of the auditorium’s normal capacity. Tickets will likely be required to attend to ensure the event doesn’t go beyond capacity.
Beresford acknowledged that redistricting can be a “tough” and “emotional” process but that it is in the best interest of students because it prevents overcrowding and putting a strain on resources in certain areas.
“At the end of the day, students have a much better environment to learn in,” he said. “Once this process ends in December, the whole second semester will be about transitioning the students and making that a special and positive experience.”