Bristol Virginia schools discuss re-zoning

BRISTOL, Va. - Big changes could be coming to some Bristol Virginia elementary schools, as educators decide how to deal with overcrowding.

Bristol Virginia Public Schools school board members met with parents on Thursday night at Highland View Elementary to talk about re-zoning plans that could change where some kids go to school.

Parents told us poverty rates, open classrooms, and property values are all reasons why they don't want the school district to be re-zoned.

The school board has  four re-zoning options. The one debated Thursday night would effect students who go to Highland View and live in McChesney Heights.

"The fourth option includes McChesney Heights leaving it here," said superintendent Mark Lineburg. "The option prior to that is a total re-zone that would put McChesney Heights with Van Pelt."

Parent Michael Varney worries about his third grader. He told us, if students are transferred to Van Pelt, some may not learn as well in the open classrooms.

"That's going to be a huge transition for them with them being used to the Highland View model with the enclosed classrooms," Varney said. "Especially the kids that have any kind of attention deficit problem."

Superintendent Lineburg told us that shouldn't be an issue because Van Pelt has the highest test scores among all of the elementary schools in the system.

He does agree with Varney that losing the McChesney Heights families could cost the school some of it's stability.

"I think there's some merit to that," Lineburg said. "You have a really high poverty school here, 86 percent on reduced lunch, and McChesney Heights are our most stable families."

We're told under this re-zoning plan, Highland View's poverty rate would go up.

Varney said that without the McChesney Heights families, there will be fewer parents to help out in the classroom.

"They won't ever have the chance to have a stable core of volunteers and stable core of help to the school," said Varney.

The school board told us the ultimate goal is a two-school system. Once they build a new school, they said they'll close Highland View, Washington Lee and Stonewall Jackson and move those students to the new building.

We're told they have one more community meeting before they make a decision in April. The location and time of that meeting has not been announced.

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