Broadus Wood Elementary School

Broadus Wood sits just north of the hamlet of Earlysville in a 1936 building with major improvements and renovations. I love a building with history and character, and the front of Broadus Wood speaks to its Art Deco origins with its rounded concrete, and thin, elegant typeface spelling out its name. Inside, Broadus Wood has been renovated, with bits of history still shining through in tilework and functional storage units. In 1994, Broadus Wood was expanded, with an 8 room addition and cafeteria.
Of all the schools I have visited, Broadus Wood is the most under capacity. After visiting school upon school where every available space is used, and reused, it was amazing to visit a school where room after room was open. Four or five classrooms are empty. Additional space was being used for pull out instruction– one teacher and one student in a classroom intended for 20 students. Both the music and art rooms are unused 2 days a week because of the master schedule. Meanwhile, neighboring Greer is way over-capacity.
Redistricting is challenging, especially in the tight confines of the Hydraulic/29 North/Rio area. How do you justify taking students from a school 2 miles away to one 5 miles away? There are many issues to consider when redistricting, and they intersect with some of the topics that we as a society have the most difficulty discussing, including race, class, culture, achievement and privilege.
As previously discussed, the urban ring is densely packed, and tends to be lower-income. There are many descriptors that one can use when discussing low-income families, including, disadvantaged, low-income, eligible for free/reduced lunch, under-resourced, and underserved. Low-income families come from every racial and ethnic group. Some low-income students are born in the USA to families where English is the primary language, some are born in the USA to families who primarily speak a non-English language. Some families have freely moved to the US, others have moved as refugees. Some low-income students experience an achievement gap with more affluent peers. I use low-income as a non-pejorative term, not to label or judge families, but to discuss the impact of fewer resources. Low-income families are not a monolith, but may share certain challenges.
Greer, the elementary school that is most overcrowded and in need of redistricting, is 77% disadvantaged, and 33% English Language Learners. The neighborhoods that have been discussed as being redistricted out of Greer are predominately low-income and non-white. It seems that Broadus Wood might be the school to receive redistricted Greer students, logically from a space standpoint, but problematically geographically and logistically. In terms of geography, it may seem illogical to parents to have their children bussed 7 miles to Broadus Wood, versus traveling 1.7 or 1.6 miles to Greer or Agnor-Hurt. There is simply not enough room at these urban ring schools.
When underserved families are redistricted to new, perhaps more-distant, schools, problems that are endemic to redistricting can be compounded. Parents from underserved families may not participate in community forums due to conflicting work schedules, lack of childcare or feeling that their voices are not valued. Underserved families may be less familiar or comfortable with the school environment. Parents may have negative or no previous experiences with the American educational system. Families may feel that they are being shunted from school to school because they are “unwanted”. Students may have a hard time assimilating into the school community due to language, culture or perceived or actual discrimination.
Parents may not have the transportation or time to travel to a more rural school to develop relationships with the teachers and administration, and they may not feel comfortable traveling to rural parts of the county where they are racial or ethnic minorities.
This is not an indictment of Broadus Wood, or the families. It is simply that redistricting, always problematic because of the relationships that families have developed within a school community, must be handled sensitively and with finesse when there are racial, cultural, economic and other differences in the communities being brought together. I think that diversity in these areas is beneficial to schools and their students, creating opportunities for cross-cultural understanding and competency, compassion, and broadening perspectives. I also think that the Broadus Wood administration, specifically Principal King, has the skills and insight to successfully unite current and future students and families into the Broadus Wood community.

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