The Chatham County Schools Board of Education is set to make the final decision on the Seaforth High School Attendance Zone at its next regular session meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday. …
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The Chatham County Schools Board of Education is set to make the final decision on the Seaforth High School Attendance Zone at its next regular session meeting, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday.
Seaforth, a new school located off of U.S. Hwy. 64 near Jordan Lake, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2021. The school’s attendance zone is to be developed from the existing Northwood High School attendance zone, since Northwood is facing significant overcrowding. In a CCS presentation provided for community input sessions, data showed Northwood’s capacity of 964 students currently being surpassed, with more than 1,400 current students. The same slide projected the school would have nearly 2,000 students by 2029 if overcrowding is not reduced.
The zoning decision has been controversial, with many parents and community members expressing concern about the potential loss of resources at Northwood based on certain scenarios. In an opinion piece published in the News + Record July 24, columnist Andrew Taylor-Troutman — “a white parent living in the neighborhood of Briar Chapel” — said Briar Chapel students could be moved to Seaforth next fall based on the scenario options, which would make the percentage of Black students 7%, compared with Northwood’s 14%.
“Why does this matter? Every major academic indicator shows that Black students perform better in schools that are more fully integrated,” Taylor-Troutman wrote. “Yet, public schools in the South are now segregated at levels before the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education. Due to residential and school segregation, children of color are often isolated from opportunities and resources that impact their well-being and future.”
CCS partnered with N.C. State’s Operations Research and Education Laboratory (OREd), a third-party evaluation research group that assists with school planning processes to gather data to help make the rezoning decision. The district also hosted four community input sessions in January and February for parents of current pre-kindergarten through ninth grade students.
At those meetings, surveys were posted and available for input, with that data to then be compiled — additional attendance zone scenarios could also be added to the board’s consideration. Prior to coronavirus restrictions, the Seaforth zoning decision was set to be made by July, with deliberations beginning in April. Originally, the board only had three scenarios (Scenarios One, Two and Three), but two more were added during the input process (Scenario Four in April and Five in May).
By last month’s school board meeting, Scenarios Four and Five were removed from the board’s consideration. In the public comment session, citizens overwhelmingly supported Scenario Two, which zones Briar Chapel to Northwood and all of Chatham Park to Seaforth, stating significant concern about the board clustering affluence at Seaforth and taking away resources from Northwood High School. The board also removed Scenario One from consideration — leaving only Scenarios Two and Three to decide between — and unanimously pushed the final decision on Seaforth attendance to their Aug. 10 meeting. Scenario Three zones Briar Chapel to Seaforth and Chatham Park splits between Northwood and Seaforth.
“Once again, this should have been a conversation that should have been had three weeks ago,” July 16 attendee Randall Armstrong said in that meeting’s chat.
The upcoming meeting is currently scheduled to take place at the Chatham County Historic Courthouse, but like the board’s other regular meetings in the last months, it will likely be changed to an electronic meeting via Zoom because of COVID-19 meeting restrictions.
Seaforth will be the first new high school in Chatham County since 1972, with a projected capacity of 1,200 students academically and budgeted cost of $61.3 million, as of this spring.
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at email@example.com.