School Board Approves Redistricting Plan

Wilmington, NC – The final map prioritizes student proximity to their schools, except in the case of two downtown elementaries. Snipes and Freeman would otherwise have become predominantly African American. Under the plan, they'll turn into magnet schools focusing on arts and foreign language, with only 40% of their students coming from surrounding neighborhoods.

This is a departure from the two maps the school board had discussed at a series of public forums earlier in the spring, which focused on proximity and racial/socio-economic diversity respectively.

Board chairman Donald Hayes says this third map was a response to concerns that the neighborhood' model would lead to re-segregation of these two schools. Hayes says the school board didn't see or formally discuss the final map until its working session last night, but he's surprised by criticism of the board's swift adoption of the plan.

"If we're going to make the decision by August, and there some other things that might take place, such as what type of magnets it will be and so forth, getting the information out as far as the open enrollment, things of this nature, my opinion was, and I'm not speaking for the board, my opinion was, why wait?"

Hayes says the school board looked at magnet schools in the Wake County system before proposing the change for Freeman and Snipes. He expects the extra cost to be financed through grants and with money saved on busing.

Board member Edward Higgins cast the only vote against the plan, with Dorothy Deshields abstaining and Steve Bilzi absent. Wilmington already has one magnet elementary - Gregory elementary focuses on math and technology.

The new redistricting map is available on the school district's website.