Despite Florence, school board will work on redistricting

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Redistricting forums scrapped by Hurricane Florence

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Despite Hurricane Florence canceling a month of school board meetings, New Hanover County parents will still get a chance to share their thoughts on redistricting.

Last month, the New Hanover County Board of Education was forced to cancel three public forums on its ongoing redistricting process. Proposed middle and high school maps, redrawn to ease overcrowding at several district schools, would move about 9 percent of high schoolers and 12 percent of middle schoolers. Elementary maps have yet to be released.

School board Chairman Ed Higgins said Monday that he anticipates the forums will be rescheduled for some time this month. That would mean moving a final vote on the middle and high school maps back to November, possibly at a Nov. 7 meeting that will need to be scheduled.

“It hasn’t really been discussed yet, but my belief is they will be rescheduled,” Higgins said. “It’s just a matter of when can the greatest number of board members get to these forums.”

Board member Lisa Estep said she would like to hold off on hosting the forums until more New Hanover County Schools families are settled in the area. She noted that several apartment complexes, including The Glen Apartments off South College Road, were heavily damaged by the storm and saw residents relocated.

“Certainly you want to wait until the majority of parents and students are back to what will be their new normal. We’ve just had a lot of upheaval lately,” she said. “We probably owe it to everyone to wait until repairs have been made and the worst is over.”

But she said the process needs to keep moving, despite the storm. New middle and high school maps are scheduled to go into effect at the start of next school year. Several schools, including Noble and Trask middle schools, remain well over their student capacity.

“That’s not going to change, so postponing that decision is not going to help the schools that need it the most,” she said.

District spokeswoman Valita Quattlebaum said in a message that staff has not determined when make-up forums might be held. Several schools sustained significant flooding damage during Florence, and no schools will reopen before Thursday.

“I think right now the main priority is to try to get the schools cleaned up and get the students back in,” she said.

Reporter Cammie Bellamy can be reached at