Education

DPS to put redistricting on hold until next school year

The Durham Board of Education has postponed plans for a comprehensive redistricting to focus on its search for a new superintendent to replace Bert L'Homme who will retire in August.
The Durham Board of Education has postponed plans for a comprehensive redistricting to focus on its search for a new superintendent to replace Bert L'Homme who will retire in August.

The Durham Public Schools’ plans for a comprehensive school redistricting have been postponed while the board of education focuses on finding a new superintendent to replace Bert L’Homme, who will retire in August.

DPS had begun a redistricting study that would have led to some changed school assignments in the 2018-19 school year.

“The reason is that redistricting is an important conversation for the community and our superintendent search is also important,” said DPS spokesman Chip Sudderth. “We think it’s best that we don’t have them at the same time.”

The school district also announced that two public input meetings on redistricting scheduled for this month have been postponed and will be rescheduled for sometime next school year.

DPS has not had a comprehensive redistricting since the merger of the majority-black former city schools and predominantly white county schools.

School officials said a new school assignment plan is needed to respond to changing population trends in Durham County that have left some schools operating above capacity while others are significantly under capacity.

“For the most part, our attendance areas have not changed significantly since the city and county school systems merged in 1992,” Hugh Osteen, deputy superintendent for operational services, said in January. “They have only been adjusted when a new school or program opens. Over time, that means that some of our schools are overcrowded while other schools have too many empty seats.”

In 2011 the school board adopted guiding principles for student assignment, including one that requires the board to take action if enrollment at a school drops below 85 percent of building capacity.

This school year, 11 schools are below that threshold while nine are beyond 105 percent of building capacity.

L’Homme announced in April that he would step down in August, citing dramatic changes in the “landscape of public education.”

“In January, I realized that I likely will not have the physical or mental energy to respond to those challenges, while at the same time dramatically accelerating our academic growth, for the duration of my contract,” L’Homme said.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645

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