Schools’ showdown Monday

Tue, 11/20/2007 - 5:26pm
By: John Thompson

Facing the involuntary transfer of more than 2,000 elementary school students, will the Board of Education pick Map A, Map B, or ‘none of the above’?

For nearly six months, the Fayette County Board of Education has remained silent while a committee drew up new elementary school lines for next year. But next Monday promises to be a meeting for the ages as the board finally gets hands-on input into the new lines.

In 2006, board member Marion Key was the lone member to vote against building a new elementary school in Inman. A week after seeing the new lines unveiled, Key has a lot of questions.

“It just concerns me that so many kids are going to be moved out of Minter [Elementary School]. It’s almost going to be like a new school next year,” she said.

This year’s redrawing of the lines put the residents of Fayetteville at ground zero when it comes to the number of students being moved.

One of the more controversial aspects of the new lines involves closing down East Fayette Elementary and moving the alternative school and other programs several blocks across Fayetteville to the county’s oldest school.

Both Minter and Spring Hill Elementary could see their populations dramatically shift next year with the influx of students from East Fayette.

Key is not quite sure that East Fayette will close, but offered a new wrinkle if the board decides to shut it down.

“I think we could use it or the Lafayette Education Center to house the students for one year that will attend the Tillman Road elementary school,” she said.

Currently, Burch Elementary School is one of the system’s most overcrowded schools, and Key would like to offer that school some relief next year instead of waiting until Tillman opens in 2009.

Both plans offered by the committee shift at least 2,000 students next year, which is the biggest movement in the school system’s history.

Option A would close East Fayette and repurpose the school for programs that are currently held at the LaFayette Educational Center.

Assistant Superintendent Sam Sweat said this option would move about 25 percent of the county’s students, which amounts to more than 2,200 students.

Option B keeps East Fayette open and moves about 20 percent of the students. Spring Hill, Inman and Minter would all be small schools with just over 300 students each at the schools.

The process started in March when the committee was established to set new lines for Inman Elementary School, which opens next year. The board is also drawing lines for the elementary school on Tillman Road, which is set to open in 2009.

Balancing empty rooms with overcrowded schools is one of the objectives committee members used in redrawing school attendance boundary lines.

Other objectives the system presented include the following:

• To not build another elementary school for several years and to maintain the new attendance boundaries for at least five years.

• To leave capacity in schools serving areas of higher growth rates.

• To disrupt as few students as possible with the changed boundaries.

Key is hoping the maps can be tweaked to try and disrupt fewer students.

School officials are hopeful the process can be completed in December, but there is still a public hearing to be held and a final vote on the proposals.

Sweat said he expects Monday’s workshop meeting to be full of questions and said the final decision is now in the board’s hands.

“I think the committee did some excellent work, and our consultant provided us with valuable demographics that we will be using for years,” Sweat said.

Consultant Kelley Carey told the board that the redistricting process was about the “sharing of burdens and needs, and not about trade-offs between schools.”

The consultant also told the committee this fall that a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax would be needed to fund additions for the school system, because there was not any available construction money for new classrooms.

Monday’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the board’s meeting room at Stonewall Avenue in Fayetteville.

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Submitted by RightOnTheMoney on Wed, 11/21/2007 - 2:43pm.

The purpose of this redistricting is to move kids in the High Schools - yet again - but this time in s-l-o-w motion.

Example: 80+ kids from Whitewater Country Club attending Peeples Elementary, Zoned for Starr's Mill, will be moved to SH Minter Elementary School. Those kids will then want to 'stay with friends' and attend Whitewater Middle School in place of Rising Starr, and of course again will want to stay with friends and attend WHS rather than Starr's Mill.

Again, this is just ONE example.

If you follow the moves that were made earlier in the year and these proposed changes, you will see the changes for the High Schools that are being manipulated via the 'back door'.

How about just redrawing the High School lines so everyone can see what you are trying to do and then list the feeders for each school?

Submitted by Lakey on Wed, 11/21/2007 - 7:55pm.

You are correct that they are developing a model for feeder schools as they draw new elementary school lines. Highlighting the major changes we will see: Spring Hill will feed Fayette Middle and Fayette County HS; Inman, Mentor and Brooks will feed Whitwater Middle and Whitewater HS; Crabapple will feed Flat Rock and Sandy Creek HS. Long range Cleveland and Tillman will feed Bennett's Mill and the 6th County HS. The advisory committee had the job of rewriting school boundaries; not to develop a plan for closing an active elementary school. If we were at a car dealer they's call it "bait and switch". Members of the BOE owe us an answer to one question. "If you are using a feeder system for our schools, how do Plan A and Plan B affect the current (voted on Nov 13, 2006) feeder patterns for middle and high school zones?"

Submitted by Fayette Resident on Wed, 11/21/2007 - 1:28pm.

I posted this online before the paper was published this week. Note the comments that are in bold about Marion Key.

Okay, I have read every article about school redistricting since the discussion began about the opening of a new elementary school in the Inman area after the last elementary school redistricting took place. Let me first say that I do not have children in elementary school, but I am concerned about the quality of the education system in Fayette County in order to maintain the standard of living and retain or increase my property's value. I have lived in this County for longer than most of you posting to this board. (30 plus years). Welcome to Fayette County. Isn't it great that the "gates" were not closed at some point in time and the development stopped just prior to you or your family moving into Fayette County. Fayette County is a great place to live. Do I wish that different development had taken place over the years? Sure. Have I stood before Council Meetings and School Board Meetings to make my opinion known over the years? Yes.

Enough with the introduction. This redistricting argument is so predictable. With every redistricting decision there will be groups of parents who passionately want their children to remain in their school district. I would fight for the right of my child to do so if I wanted him or her to stay in the same district. Unfortunately, with all of the growth throughout the past 30 plus years, there have been many new elementary schools that have opened and caused hundreds of students to be redistricted with each new school opening. That means when your families moved into the district, they caused a little more growth which eventually caused a new elementary school to be built.

People have been singing the praises of Marion Key. Be careful what you praise.

She is very predictable in her actions. She will approve the appointment of a committee to create boundaries, then in the eleventh hour be persuaded by a group of parents that the entire process is incorrect and people will start to sing her praises. Observe the redistricting lines when Whitewater High School was opened. Look at the lines going down Ebenezer Church Road toward Peachtree City. Could it be that she wanted her property to be the last property allowed into the new high school and removed from Fayette County?

FAYETTE COUNTY has a school system. PEACHTREE CITY does not. Every time redistricting becomes an issue, there are parents in Peachtree City who state “My realtor told me that I would always be attending this or that school.” That comment is not the fault of the School Board. It is the fault of the realtor.

Many people are asking “Why was Inman Elementary built when the schools are not even filled to capacity?” Do some homework. School planning must take place years in advance. My guess is that Inman Elementary was on the drawing board at least five years ago. No one can predict when the population of the county will begin to grow at a much slower pace. It was going to happen sooner or later that there would be an elementary school built that might not be needed at the time it opens. Think of the complaints that would come forth if the school board had not planned an elementary school and the population of Fayette County grew in double digits over the past 5 years. People would be asking them why they did not plan ahead.

Proper facility planning takes places years before the students arrive. Be thankful we are not in the situation that Gwinnett County finds themselves faced with. I don’t think I would trade places. One extra elementary school may not be that bad.

For those of you who are so upset about them thinking of closing East Fayette. Is it really such a bad idea to close the aging facility? Or, do you feel that the facility should remain open simply because that would allow your son or daughter to attend a much newer facility? I have been in the East Fayette facility many times over the past 30 years and it is time for either major improvements to be done or for the school to be closed. The cost to the taxpayers is probably much less to close the school and move the entire faculty to the new Inman Elementary. This total transfer will cause much less problems because the faculty will be cohesive and will have worked together. I thought it was a great idea.

My children were moved to other schools during the school years. Did it take some adjusting? Sure. Did they survive? Sure. Did they have to make some new friends? Sure. Kids are flexible. With parental support, as with any new change in a child’s life, even a change to a new school will not be as big of an adjustment as what you feel it might be.

It is time to face the facts. There will be many students moved with redistricting. It will take some adjustments, but the kids will be okay. Peachtree City parents will face the reality that there child may have to attend a different school. Living in a community with neighborhoods so close together will cause that to be a reality.

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Submitted by cruiserman on Wed, 11/21/2007 - 6:30am.

During last year's middle school rezoning mess, Marion was proposing to scrap all the current lines for a massive rezoning. She said that we had been picking away at the problem for years and that we needed to do a comprehensive redrawing of the lines. Can't have it both ways or what is most expedient for the moment, Marion. Some of us are actually listening and have a memory.

Marion, be careful what you wish for.

Submitted by g8trgrl on Tue, 11/20/2007 - 11:22pm.

I read table B with the school numbers and this articles numbers are way off. Table B (which goes with map B) says Minter will have 596 kids, Spring Hill will have 568 & Inman 428. I am not sure where the reporter gets just over 300 from? The numbers look great! I am not sure what will happen with the board's planned tweaking? Good luck to them on that one. Which neighborhoods provided the most pressure? We will see with the tweaking.

The kids going from Burch to LEC? Wow! How many miles will that be? That would blow any argument any neighborhood has about how long a bus ride would be!

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