Mattison parents say their children are bearing an unfair share of the burden.
"Why is it impossible for the well-to-do, affluent folks in Lower Gwynedd to take a little bit of a hit in this process?" John Kunzier, 47, asked during a public input meeting Monday night.
District officials said no single school has enough capacity to take all of Ambler's students.
"You sort of get a domino effect. If you move all those kids into Lower Gwynedd, it would go over capacity and you would have to move a number more," said Barbara Moyer, who sits on the school board and the redistricting panel.
Moyer said she understands where the Ambler parents are coming from.
"When it's a smaller number of kids, people say, 'Why just me? Why not the whole district?' " Moyer said. "I think they see the numbers, but it's difficult to accept it when it's happening to you."
Socioeconomic and racial disparities add to the tension. Half of the students at Mattison Avenue are economically disadvantaged, 22 percent are Hispanic and 18 percent are African American - a stark contrast to their more wealthy and mostly white counterparts in Whitpain and Lower Gwynedd.
"It almost feels like a class issue. It seems like the path of least resistance to go through the poorer community," said Rick Taylor, 43.
The district has long been accused of not properly reaching out to Spanish-speaking parents. Translators were brought into meetings after a parent filed a discrimination complaint with the federal Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.
At Monday night's meeting, the translator spoke to only one parent even though several Spanish-speaking parents were in the room. An English-speaking parent stood up to ask that the translator be more vocal, but district officials moved forward with the presentation in English.
"I only want to ask you take care of the well-being of our Latino children so they don't experience racial discrimination. Because we never had to live through that at Mattison," a tearful Isabel Bruno later said, through the translator. The federal investigation is ongoing, and it's unclear whether a ruling will be made before Mattison closes in June.
Mattison parents and Ambler officials fought bitterly against the closure, arguing that the school was the "beating heart" of the community and that the large population of Spanish-speaking students would suffer at any other school.
No redistricting proposal could replace what parents loved most about Mattison - walkability; size; familiarity. But the proposal, parents said, felt like salt in an open wound.
"When you closed Mattison, you ripped out our hearts. Now you're just carving them apart," said Scott Miller, 42.
On the north end of the district, where about 40 students will be changing schools, parents were more accepting of the change.
A mother who attended a public input meeting at Shady Grove on Tuesday said her three children will be transferred to Stony Creek next year.
"It's hard for them to understand the big picture, so they're a little upset," said the woman, who did not want to give her name. "I'm actually OK with it. It's kind of sad because it's a small number of kids, but it needs to be done."
Jill Lafferty's children are also moving to Stony Creek. "I realize it's redistricting - I didn't realize it would be so small, but it is what it is," said Lafferty, 42. She said her children are "devastated," and asked that the district allow parents to request that children be placed in a classroom with a friend.
Neil Jacobs, whose children are moving from Blue Bell to Stony Creek, said, "We're OK with what's happening." But he expressed sympathy for the Mattison Avenue parents.
"It does seem pretty shocking that you would show up without Spanish materials in a school that 37 percent speak Spanish," he said at Monday's meeting.
Contact Jessica Parks at 610-313-8117, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @JS-Parks.