But Mrs. Jackson couldn’t help but ask: why now?
Some changes, such as the planned renovation, were a sign of gentrification for her. Even as North High opened up to white families, some black families, like hers, were transferred to another school, although North’s low enrollment meant they could stay for now.
“I feel like they want to start implementing these things because they’re getting white students,” said Ms. Jackson. “A lot of white families fight for it, if they say it, they want it and they get it. But why is it taking us 15 years?”
To Attend or Not to Attend: White Families Face a Decision
For white and more affluent parents, the new school plan also came with a thud.
In southern neighborhoods that were only being repurposed to the north, realtors began hearing from families selling their homes. At one point, images circulated on social media of a sign outside a coveted elementary school, where the students, 60 percent white, would eventually be assigned to North.
The sign represented a tombstone. “RIP,” it read. “This will destroy our community.”
A major challenge for the district was that families could still choose charter or suburban schools. In a section of the new zone, which includes some of the more affluent neighborhoods, only 15 percent of new families assigned to North decided to attend, according to district figures.
Parents evaluating the school at a glance would have seen some disturbing statistics: high crime rates in the area, low test scores, a score of 1 in 10 on GreatSchools.org.
At the same time, the picture of places like North is complicated by research indicating that white privileged parents can use the number of other white privileged families as an indicator of school quality. And while test scores are an important measure, they are also closely tied to income and can be imperfect windows into a student’s entire experience.
“We’re not as bad as people make out,” said Alexandria McNeill, a 17-year-old senior at North who is Black. With the repurposing, she said she hoped other families would see her community more like her: a place of home and connection, a launch pad for college, and what she hopes a career in communications will be.