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School Boardís turn to redraw district lines

Michelle Stuckey -   Dec 15, 2011

It is the School Boardís turn to redraw district lines in St. Charles Ė a process that should go smoothly, according to Kevin Belanger, chief executive officer for South Central Planning and Development Commission.

The commission presented four options to the School Board during November and December meetings. The board is required to redraw its district boundaries every 10 years based on U.S. Census data to ensure equal representation in all districts.

A public hearing on the redistricting will be held on Jan. 18 at 5:45 p.m.

The four proposed reapportionment alternatives can be viewed online at www.stcharles.k12.la.us, at the School Board central office during regular office hours and at the East and West Regional libraries.

One option will provide as little change as possible for the parish while still providing minor adjustments to account for shifts in the minority population. Other options will increase the concentration of minorities in certain areas, but would manipulate the current districts quite a bit.

"All of them would work, itís just a matter of what you can tolerate," Belanger said. "Given the changes that some of the alternatives cause to the varying districts, many of the board members may feel like theyíre too abrupt and they may want to minimize the amount of change."

Belanger said that a big piece of the initiative was to try to maintain the existing districts and not to pit existing board members against each other while still providing for minority representation.

Belanger also worked on the reapportionment for Parish Council districts earlier this year. He said that reworking the school district is much easier because there is an even number of representatives – eight at the school board compared to nine at the council.

"Nobody wants to go over the river," he said. "In the councilís plan, there was no getting around it – somebody had to.

"None of the school districtís alternatives have districts crossing the river."

The board hopes to adopt one of the plans after the January public hearing.

Belanger said that boards take the publicís opinion into consideration, in his experience.

"There are some things that you just canít change based on the publicís comments because they arenít knowledgeable on the demographics, but if they make a comment and it makes plausible senseÖthen it makes a lot of sense to make that change," Belanger said. "The public can – and has in the past – changed the plans."

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