The mere prospect of shifting school attendance boundaries can get emotions revved, as the Beaufort County School District's recent public meetings to discuss redistricting demonstrate.
The district hopes to adopt a comprehensive plan for all of its schools by April 1, according to superintendent Jeffrey Moss. New attendance zones for schools in northern Beaufort County would go into effect next school year; those for schools in the southern part of the county would be implemented when two new Bluffton schools open during the 2015-16 school year.
Public forums to discuss proposals have produced pointed questions and heated comments.
But they also have produced legitimate concerns, and neither the district, nor the public should get too swept away in emotion to address them.
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Take the forum Tuesday at Beaufort High School as an example. High dudgeon accompanied a plan that would send about 60 students at Coosa Elementary School 5.1 miles away to Lady's Island Elementary School.
Some Coosa Elementary parents need to be more realistic than they came across Tuesday. They cannot insist on one day that fifth grade be returned to the school -- currently, fifth-graders within Coosa's zone attend classes at Lady's Island Middle School -- then complain the next day about the number of students shuffled out of the school's attendance zone to make room.
There simply is not enough space at Coosa to accommodate everyone's wishes.
On the other hand, the district cannot get buy-in from the community when its plan would send to Lady's Island Elementary children who live so close to Coosa Elementary that their parents can hear the school's morning announcements from their breakfast tables.
Such an arrangement not only creates hard feelings, it is illogical.
This exercise will be productive only if it appeals to reason, not emotion. Redistricting is a monumental task that involves many moving parts. It can affect and be affected by curriculum, transportation, extracurricular activities, terms of the district's voluntary desegregation order and other considerations.
Parents and district officials alike must recognize there will be no perfect solution, nor will there be a permanent one. Demographics shift. School populations age. Residents come, go and relocate. Redistricting will be necessary again at some point, and all should bear in mind that change is as inevitable as it is discomforting.
So to all involved: Keep your ears open, your heart subdued and your eyes on a high-quality education, efficiently and economically delivered.