School board looks at redistricting

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Meetings: Public input is being sought

By Jennifer Garcia

Following each decennial census, the Los Alamos Board of Education is required to realign school board districts. As a result of this action, the board is required to hold two public meetings.

The first meeting was Nov. 14 at Piñon Elementary school, however only LAPS employees showed up and the meeting was adjourned shortly after it was called to order. The next meeting is scheduled for 5:30-6:30 p.m. Nov. 28 at Los Alamos Middle School. During this time, the board will present different options for realignment. The requirements that must be met are: to have two public meetings and have maps showing the districts.

Currently, Dawn Venhaus represents the Piñon district; Melanie McKinley represents Chamisa; Judith Bjarke-McKenzie represents Aspen; Kevin Honnell represents Barranca; and David Foster represents Mountain.

There are 3,423 people in the Piñon district; 3,449 in Chamisa; 3,185 in Aspen; 4,462 in Barranca and 3,431 in the Mountain district.

So far, the board has come up with five different options.

LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt said that when the school district goes through this process, it is to identify or balance those population counts.

“Students will not be moving from school to school because their board district may change,” he said. “We want to be very clear that this does not impact children. They will stay at their residence school. It (the process) will impart boundaries for a board member.”

Board Vice President Kevin Honnell said in an email, “district four, as currently drawn, is disjointed, comprising Barranca Mesa, the western sections of North Community, Quemazon and Western Area, but skipping over the Ponderosa and Pajarito school neighborhoods and the underlying voting precincts are not contiguous. In addition, over the past decade, the population of district four has swelled as a result of the development of the Quemazon neighborhood and it is now considerably larger than any of the other four districts.”

Honnell went on to say that “redistricting is good for our town, our pupils and our employees because it gives us the opportunity to remedy these sorts of problems. As a nonpartisan entity solely interested in the well being our students and teachers, the board has absolutely no interest in gerrymandering our districts or disenfranchising any neighborhood. On the contrary, boundaries can now be redrawn to give each geographical neighborhood an equal and fair voice in the governance of our schools, and a disjointed district can be rearranged into geographically sensible, neighborhood-centric regions.”

Schmidt said the board wants to ensure that there is equal representation and pointed out that they are looking to split the districts up so that each board member represents 3,400-3,500 residents each.

“Everybody would have a similar strength in the decisions made on behalf of the district,” he explained.

Following the public meetings, Schmidt said the board will go into regular session to discuss the findings and hopes to make a decision by the end of January.

“I think in redistricting or at least looking at the census count and redrawing lines, we support the democratic process,” Schmidt said. “This is a good case in social studies. Since time began, every decade, you look at redrawing lines and boundaries. It’s a real civics lesson for the community and a chance to honor the democratic process.”

According to the LAPS website, the options look like this:

Option one
District 1: 3,935 people
District 2: 3,682
District 3: 3,355
District 4: 3,314
District 5: 3,664
Pros: Meets first two requirements
involving maps and public
Cons: Fairly equal distribution but
three districts not within
+- 5 percent.

Option two
District 1: 3,864
District 2: 3,753
District 3: 3,282
District 4: 3,816
District 5: 3,235
Pros: Meets first two
requirements. No board members
have to step down.
Cons: Four districts not within
+- 5 percent.

Option three
District 1: 3,423
District 2: 3,449
District 3: 3,735
District 4: 3,839
District 5: 3,504
Pros: meets first tworequirements.
Fairly equal distribution, but
one district not within
+- 5 percent.
Each district has its own
elementary school. No changes in
White Rock districts.
Cons: Complete change to
District 5.

Option four
District 1: 3,337
District 2: 3,449
District 3: 3,515
District 4: 3,816
District 5: 3,833
Pros: Meets first two
Cons: Fairly equal distribution
but three districts not within
+- 5 percent.

Option 5
District 1: 3,796
District 2: 3,578
District 3: 3,788
District 4: 3,664
District 5: 3,124
Pros: Meets first two
requirements. No board members
have to step down.
Cons: Fairly equal distribution but
three districts not within
+- 5 percent. One district is
outside the 10 percent zone.

Option 6
District 1: 3,756
District 2: 3,631
District 3; 3,517
District 4: 3,382
District 5: 3,664
Pros: Meets first two
requirements. Fairly equal
distribution but one district
not within +- 5 percent.
Cons: Big changes to most districts. White Rock populations are in three different districts.