There is finally some consensus on district-wide rezoning in the Sumter School District.
On Thursday evening, the District Board’s Transportation Study Ad Hoc Committee agreed to delay the implementation of the realignment by one year until at least the fall of 2023. This recommendation will be submitted to the full board on March 28 at its next regular meeting.
It was a day shy of four months after school trustee and committee member Matthew “Mac” McLeod floated the idea of delaying the November 18 rezoning implementation. Meanwhile, the uncertainty has prompted recurring questions on the subject from parents and families in the district. .
The study that began late last summer makes changes to current attendance zones for all 24 schools in the district.
“I think doing it this fall is way too fast, and we have to postpone it until at least 2023,” McLeod said. “And maybe even then, set up different levels depending on the year.”
Fellow committee members Frank Baker, Sherril Ray and Brian Alston agreed to delay for a year.
When Sumter County went from two school districts to a single countywide district in 2011, then school zone realignment was not part of the deal. Now, a decade after consolidation, Ohio-based Cropper GIS Consulting has been tasked with rezoning the district as a third-party consultant.
Senior consultant Matthew Cropper also agreed with the delay, as the full board isn’t actually ready to vote on any particular realignment option until April.
Also on Thursday, the committee and district administration agreed to present two draft options on March 28 — both “Option 3” and “Option 4” — for the full board to decide between them. Option 3 would move about 3,185 students in the district, or 21%, while Option 4 would move about 2,542 students, or 17%, to a new school.
Cropper said that for a fall implementation schedule to work, a district typically needs plan approval in January or February. Sumter is a few months behind that schedule.
After approval, he added, a district has three main tasks. One is to notify parents and students affected by attendance line changes. Second, staffing adjustments are needed to account for enrollment changes in schools. Finally, the district must reconfigure its bus lines.
“If we present this in March in 11 days and the board works on it,” Cropper said, “then the earliest they will vote on it at the board meeting in April. [April 11]. That doesn’t give you a lot of time to do those three things. It’s quite a heavy job, especially considering the number of students we’re looking to potentially impact.”
Other variables at play include the fact that a new superintendent won’t be in place until July 1, and that person’s contribution to the process will be significant, committee members said.
Both McLeod and Ray indicated the importance of “flexibility” regarding implementation in 2023 and the future.
The board must also work on open enrollment policy issues to allow for special accommodations for students with extracurricular programs and activities, which have yet to be resolved.
Cropper said the public has submitted a total of 290 comments so far, and about 25% to 30% of those relate to the implementation schedule and open registration issues.
He and the committee also worked on a recent suggestion from the Sumter Board of Realtors for a potential new subdivision on Deschamps Road near Patriot Parkway. The current attendance area lines of the district and the two options would divide the subdivision between Hillcrest Middle School and Alice Drive Middle.
To avoid splitting, an adjustment will be made so that the entire neighborhood goes to Alice Drive Middle.