Separate school districts could help students in city and county schools

Separate school districts could help students in city and county schools
July 18
01:00 2019

Last month while waiting for the Board of Education meeting to begin, I took a glance at the giant WS/FCS (Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools) logo positioned on the wall and started thinking, what if they dropped the “/” all together. In other words, what if Winston-Salem and Forsyth County schools operated as two separate entities?

As Winston-Salem continues to grow, it is important that we realize that the small cities and towns that surround the Twin City are growing too. According to the 2017 census, combined Kernersville, Rural Hall, Walkertown, Lewisville, Clemmons, Pfafftown, and parts of Tobaccoville, the major cities and towns that make up Forsyth County, have a population of nearly 70,000, and with highway construction and development, that is bound to reach 80,000 by 2030. And if you look at the number of schools located in the county, it makes even more sense to separate the schools into two separate systems.

By the time the school board members had taken their seats at the meeting, I had it figured all out – well, in my mind anyway. The two districts would have two separate boards with non-partisan members elected by citizens.

Currently, WS/FCS receives about 75% of its funding from the N.C. Board of Education; the rest is covered in the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners’ annual budget. In the two-district system, the County would continue handling the funding for the 26 schools in the county, and the Winston-Salem City Council would handle the necessary funding for the schools in the city. Both the Winston-Salem city schools and Forsyth County schools would provide funding for the non-traditional schools in the area and they would operate as city/county wide “magnet schools” for students with special needs. The Career Center would also serve students from both districts.

If you were to split the 80 schools in the local school district, Winston-Salem city schools would have 24 elementary schools, 11 middle schools and 12 high schools. Forsyth County schools would have 16 elementary schools, 6 middle schools and 6 high schools (in my calculations, Gibson Elementary and Northwest Middle School are included with Forsyth County schools), more than enough to accommodate the students who live in the county.

Not too long ago, the two-district system was the law of the land. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools wasn’t formed until 1963 when the two districts decided to merge. With less than 40 schools total in the two districts, it made sense to merge the two. But today, with 80 schools, plans for others in the near future, more than a dozen failing schools, and the third grade literacy rate below 50%, it may be time to try something new … or old.

In my opinion, the two-district system allows elected officials to place resources where they need it most. In the two-district system, a new elementary school in East Winston wouldn’t be put on hold for a school in the county that most people in the city have never heard of. And residents in the county would see their tax dollars go directly to the schools in their communities.

Having two districts would also create more community schools in the area. The Coalition for Community Schools, a national organization sponsored by the Institute for Educational Leadership, defines community schools as hubs that bring educators, families, and community partners together to offer a range of opportunities and services to students and families.

Most importantly, community schools have a record of responding to the unique needs of students. When Winston-Salem City and Forsyth County schools merged in 1963 to form the state’s 4th largest school district, whether it was intentional or just by coincidence, community schools became a thing of the past.

Although I know that the cost, time and manpower it would take makes it nearly impossible that this will ever happen, it is a conversation starter. At a place in time where prisons are being built based off third grade reading scores, we need to have as many conversations as possible.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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