More than 500 students in the West Chester Area School District will be asked to change schools next year under a redistricting plan approved by the school board.

Passed Monday night, 8-1, the plan changes boundaries for the 16 district schools, with the goals of easing crowding and bringing more balance. It will affect less than 5 percent of overall district enrollment, officials said.

"I feel good that it's behind us and I feel positive about the process," Superintendent Jim Scanlon said Tuesday.

Without redistricting, the district predicted that six of its elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school would be over capacity by 2018, based on a demographic study. At the same time, overall enrollment is projected to decrease slightly in the coming years.

The process "was very extensive," said parent Matt Franks, cochair of the steering committee.

The district also hopes to balance socio-economic demographics by equalizing the portion of students on free and reduced lunches at each school.

In addition, students in West Chester Borough will be spread across six elementary schools rather than 10, allowing many to attend school closer to where they live. The other four schools will continue to serve students outside the borough.

Current fourth graders, middle schoolers, and high schoolers will be allowed to stay at their schools next fall if they choose to. Affected families will receive letters explaining their options.

"The hardest part about everything is the emotional impact it has on the families, and we constantly were always taking that into consideration," Franks said.

Overall, people "understand why we need to do it," he said, though there is "a mixed bag of people that really like it [and] groups that aren't thrilled about it."

One person spoke against the plan at the Monday board meeting, he said.

The process began in October 2013, led by the steering committee of parents and school system staff. The district originally proposed moving 1,200 students, but revised the boundaries to cut the number by more than half.

West Chester Area schools last redistricted in 2006, when Bayard Rustin High School opened.

jmcdaniel@philly.com

610-313-8205

@McDanielJustine