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Bertie K-5 students may see change

WINDSOR – The letters are in the mail.

In addressing an ongoing situation regarding public school attendance lines in Bertie County, the parents/guardians whose school-age children will be impacted by a change in those zones should receive letters this week informing them where their kindergarten through 5th grade students will attend classes starting Aug. 25.

According to Brent Todd, a spokesperson for the Bertie County Public School system, the letters were mailed Friday (Aug. 5).

Todd added that the newly drawn attendance zones will only impact students attending Askewville, Colerain, West Bertie and Windsor elementary schools. Middle school students will not be affected. Rising seventh and eighth graders will be at the same school they attended last year. Rising sixth graders will go to the middle school they were scheduled to attend prior to the boundary changes.

The most noticeable change comes within the Askewville district, one where the Bertie Board of Education, in its effort to appease a federal court order, altered the attendance lines to pave the way for additional black students in the classrooms at Askewville Elementary School.

Bertie Public School officials hope their latest effort to bring racial balance to Askewville Elementary will carry the system into full compliance with a 1968 federal desegregation order.

In late April of 2003, Terrence W. Boyle, Chief United States District Judge, ruled the system had allegedly failed to fully comply with a desegregation plan set into motion back in 1968. In particular, Judge Boyle ruled Bertie's public educational system, "continued to operate a racially identifiable white elementary school and failed to develop and adhere to a student transfer policy consistent with its desegregation responsibilities."

Research revealed that during the 2001-02 academic year, white students comprised 81 percent of Askewville Elementary’s total enrollment of 150 students. Since the adoption of Bertie’s desegregation plan in 1969-70, white student enrollment at Askewville Elementary has ranged from a low of 77 percent (2000-01) to a high of 98 percent (1988-89).

Following several legal maneuvers by both sides, the Bertie Board of Education and the U.S. Justice Department presented the federal court a proposed consent order last month, one addressing the outstanding desegregation issue. The court approved the order on June 21.

That approval paved the way for Bertie School officials to redraw the elementary school attendance lines. School system officials said these lines may shift slightly or specific students may be reassigned if the final attendance numbers result in any classroom going beyond the capacity limits set by the state.

The new attendance zone lines will account for an increased enrollment of black students at Askewville Elementary n a figure estimated at 54 percent.