Not Meriwether: The neighborhood that didn't want to go
School redistricting this year has had some of Albemarle's most affluent neighborhoods– particularly on the western side of the county– up in arms at the suggestion their little darlings might have to go to a school other than Ivy's Meriwether Lewis or Murray elementary schools.
Earlier this year, Farmington, Bellair and Ednam Forest fought off initial plans to move their young from Murray to an as-yet unbuilt southern urban elementary school.
The second round of redistricting proposals called for shipping Farmington youths to Greer Elementary. That, too, was abandoned when vocal Farmingtonites expressed their displeasure at a hearing June 7.
When the county staff makes its redistricting recommendations to Superintendent Kevin Castner this week, they will suggest moving just one neighborhood from Murray Elementary: Glenaire, the subdivision that's closest to the school.
Usually there's little complaint about moving children into top-rated Meriwether Lewis. Certainly Garth Road's pricey Ivy Farms and Inglecress neighborhoods are balking at being transferred from Meriwether to Greer, as is Beaumont Farms about the recommendation its children go to Agnor Hurt.
But in Glenaire, accustomed to sending its children to the equally top-rated Murray, the reaction to the switch was hardly enthusiastic.
"It's really stupid and doesn't make logical sense," says Laima Lengel, who had three children at Murray. "It takes me three minutes to drive to Murray. It takes 10 to get to Meriwether."
If the Glenaire switch is approved by Castner and the School Board, Lengel plans to drive her rising 3rd and 2nd graders to Murray because they'll be grandfathered in.
"Why Glenaire?" asks Susan James. "We're the closest neighborhood of all to Murray."
"The rationale is to relieve overcrowding," says Diane Behrens, executive director of support services with Albemarle schools.
"Fifteen kids– is that really going to fix the overcrowding issue?" queries James, who points out that parents will continue to drive their grandfathered children to Murray, so that won't reduce enrollment for a few years.
Another thing concerns James about the switch: the route. She calls the path from Glenaire to Meriwether, Tilman Road, a "nasty little road" that takes six to nine minutes longer and might pose safety issues. Fellow Glenaire parent Patty Cornell agrees.
"You're going to put kids on a bus on that windy-a*s road?" asks Cornell. "It's ridiculous."
Cornell calls Murray– a half mile from the entrance to the subdivision– a "community" school that's as good as private schools.
"My oldest went to private school," says Cornell. "At Murray, we feel she's getting a private school education."
Some parents in Glenaire feel blindsided by the proposal– "the whole redistricting process is bullsh*t," declares Cornell– because it didn't come up in earlier redistricting meetings that focused on moving Murray neighborhoods closer to town.
"We hate to lose any of our kids," says Murray PTO president Janet Shobe. But she points to one inescapable fact: "Our class sizes are too large. There were 27 in my son's class."
Shobe, too, dislikes the redistricting process. "I don't think you can put parents whose goal is to keep kids in their school to make the decision," she says.
Jon Stokes, a Murray parent who lives in closer-town neighborhood Bellair, is running in the School Board election, and he, too, blasts the redistricting process that's gone on for nine months.
"I believe the School Board should take an active role in the redistricting process from the beginning and not assign the problem to a committee and await a report," he said in announcing his candidacy.
Other neighborhoods on the redistricting block would probably love Glenaire's dilemma of having to go from one top-performing school to another.
None of the Glenaire parents dissed Meriwether academically; it's just that they like Murray better. "We've created a family there," says Cornell. "They need to realize they're not just numbers, they're children."
Bellair would continue with Murray Elementary, but Glenaire would get stuck with Meriwether Lewis.
PHOTO BY SUSAN ANSPACH