By Debbie Adams
At a work session on November 1, the Roanoke County School Board discussed adjusting attendance zones in the future for some students at Bonsack, Herman L. Horn, and W. E. Cundiff Elementary schools and several other county schools.
Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely opened the discussion with a reminder of Roanoke County’s unique geography. The county is basically a large circle surrounding Roanoke City—a “doughnut”—with areas of the county separated by mountains, some isolated areas, and several concentrated areas of population. These geographical constraints, in some areas, present challenges in balancing school enrollment among its 27 schools.
Nicely said that despite those geographic challenges, the goals of the Roanoke County schools remain the same:
- To provide learning environments that support learning for all RCPS students
- To achieve balance to the extent practicable
- To avoid splitting feeder patterns to the extent practicable
- To allow students to remain in their current school to the extent practicable
- To allocate resources to align with enrollments
He and Dr. Rhonda Stegall, Assistant Superintendent of Administration, presented some options to school board members for their consideration in potentially adjusting attendance zones:
- Shift some elementary students from W. E. Cundiff to Herman L. Horn and a similar number from HLH to Bonsack Elementary to alleviate higher enrollment at Cundiff.
- Shift some students from Glen Cove/Northside to Masons Cove/Glenvar due to smaller population at Masons Cove and future higher enrollment at Glen Cove.
- Shift approximately 100 students from Cave Spring to Hidden Valley to correct an imbalance.
The board heard several options for adjustments being considered in the Vinton area elementary schools with a goal of alleviating higher enrollment at W. E. Cundiff (an open classroom school). They included:
- Shifting approximately 49 students in the Spring Grove area from Cundiff to Herman L. Horn or shifting approximately 40 students in the Stonebridge area from Cundiff to Horn.
- Shifting approximately 53 students from Herman L. Horn to Bonsack from the Midway area near 8th Street in Vinton.
Current enrollment at Bonsack Elementary is 320 students with a capacity for 428 in a building of 69,212 square feet.
Current enrollment at Herman L. Horn is 399 students with a capacity of 501 students in a building consisting of 47,142 square feet.
Current enrollment at W. E. Cundiff is 489 students with a capacity for 585 in a building of 61,759 square feet.
With the attendance zone adjustment options listed for future consideration, long-term projections at that Bonsack would then house 373 students, HLH 395-435 students, and WEC, 400-440 students.
The next steps in the process could involve mailings sent to all homes impacted in designated areas, community meetings, and surveys for families potentially affected.
Vinton’s representative to the School Board, Tim Greenway, says that with the delay of new construction and/or renovations at W. E. Cundiff, (due to lack of funding), “we need to shift some students from Cundiff to Horn to lower the numbers at Cundiff. Horn would grow by approximately 30 students, while moving some kids to Bonsack.”
Greenway noted that Bonsack has its lowest enrollment in several years with some classrooms sitting vacant.
“It’s a fairly new school with wonderful staff and administration, so this is a win/win until we can address the renovations at W. E. Cundiff.”
The open classroom concept building design at W. E. Cundiff is considered to be antiquated. Greenway has pushed for the school, along with Glen Cove Elementary, to be rebuilt or renovated to meet student needs.
Other attendance zone adjustments discussed at the work session included Cave Spring and Hidden Valley middle and high schools.
Currently Cave Spring Middle School has 765 students while Hidden Valley Middle has 576. Cave Spring High School has 1047 students, while Hidden Valley High School has 828. Long-term enrollment projections with attendance zone adjustments would be 683 students at CSMS compared to 658 at HVMS, and 939 students at CSHS with 936 at HVHS.
In May 2010, the School Board approved a plan to redistrict South County secondary schools to balance enrollment and alleviate overcrowding at Cave Spring High School and Cave Spring Middle School. The plan took effect in the 2012-2013 school year.
The currrent board and administration emphasized that any changes to attendance zones would involve much community input and consideration over a period of time.