The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday April 22nd

Hillsborough elementary shake-up causes commotion

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About 40 Hillsborough Elementary School parents came dressed in orange to protest new registration plans for the school at the Orange County Board of Education's Monday meeting. The group filled the available seating and lined the walls. More waited outside the board room to listen. Some brought their children. Just before the meeting began, the group sang the Hillsborough Elementary school song. The group came to protest changes in the registration process for Hillsborough Elementary meant to increase socioeconomic diversity both at Hillsborough Elementary and other elementary schools in the area. Caps of 20 percent in each attendance area are meant to move wealthier students from Hillsborough Elementary to other elementary schools. The plan aims to bring more students to Hillsborough Elementary who qualify for free and reduced lunch. Currently, Hillsborough Elementary is the district's school with the lowest number of students enrolled in free and reduced lunch, about 14 percent. Central Elementary has the highest number - 70 percent. Parent Allan Scott explained that parents wore orange at the request of Attention Orange, a new organization formed to challenge the plan. A letter from the group's attorney, Jennifer Sanders, protesting the plan was read aloud at the meeting. Five people stood to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. All were opposed to the plan. "When it's something that's done for the greater good, there's always a segment speaking out in support," said LeeAnne Paulakonis, mother of a kindergarten student at Hillsborough Elementary. "Where is the public support?" Board member Elizabeth Brown said she has seen public support of the measure, although not at board meetings. "I've heard a lot of parents in our community say, of course, we should have more diversity in Hillsborough," she said. This is the third week in which parents are able to apply for admission and re-admission to Hillsborough Elementary. As of Feb. 11, the school had received 257 registration forms. Of those, 173 were for current Hillsborough Elementary students and 84 were new registrations. Michael Gilbert, spokesman for the school district, said 38 more applications have been received as of Monday but had no information on how many of the applications were from new or returning students. The application period runs until March 21. Gilbert said he expects about 400 applications by then. Parents said the previous plan promised their children re-admission to the school every year after their initial acceptance. Current Hillsborough Elementary third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students will still be automatically re-admitted to the school. But parents need to fill out a registration form for all students entering kindergarten and the first and second grades, even if they currently attend the school. Students were to be notified of their acceptance by April 30. Denise Morton, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said she hopes to speed up the process by reviewing applications during the school's spring break. "We'll try to get info out to parents as soon as we can after that week," she said. If students are not accepted to the school, there is no way to appeal the decision. Contact the City Editor at citydesk@unc.edu.


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