Fayette schools’ minority ranks exceed Coweta

Thu, 02/16/2006 - 5:15pm
By: John Thompson

With no fanfare and almost no public notice, the Fayette County School System is undergoing a demographic sea change.

The Fayette County School System’s minority population now stands at 32 percent, according to Superintendent of Education John DeCotis, while five years ago it was 20 percent. It also exceeds Coweta County’s minority population.

There were fewer white students in local schools in 2005 than there were five years ago, a check of the raw numbers reveals.

Coweta County’s minority population is 31.2 percent, said Coweta County Schools spokesperson Dean Jackson.

According to figures provided by the school system, the number of minorities now calling the Fayette County School System home has dramatically increased in five years. The minority school population expanded at a rate of 2 percent each year for the past five years.

Compare today’s numbers with 2000, when the system’s student population was 19,207. Of that number, 15,417 were white students, while 3,790 were minority students, which includes African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Native-Americans and multi-racial.

But in just five years, minority growth in the system is the biggest factor in the system’s increase in students.

In 2005, 21,635 students attended Fayette County schools and 15,263 were white students, for a net loss of just under 200 white students in five years.

The fastest growing minority group are Hispanics, which saw their school population more than double from 408 students in 2000 to 860 students today.

African-American students are the second-fastest growing group in Fayette schools with a nearly 60 percent increase in students in five years. Five years ago, their population stood at 2,561, but today the number has jumped to 4,116 students. Asians in the school system saw their numbers increase from 531 students to 745 students.

According to the Georgia Statistics System, which is administered by the University of Georgia, both the Hispanic and African-American population have increased tenfold within Fayette County in just over 20 years.

In 1980, there were 224 Hispanics, but in 2003, the number had jumped to 2,599. The African-American numbers increased from 1,276 in 1980 to 13,410 in 2003.

Hispanics are now 3.3 percent of the county’s total population, while African-Americans are 15.5 percent. In the school’s population, Hispanics account for 3.9 percent of the students, while African-Americans account for 19 percent of the student population.

Compare the numbers in Coweta County, where African-Americans are 17.3 percent of the overall population and 21.7 percent of the school population, while Hispanics are 4.8 percent of the total and 4.6 percent of the school population.

DeCotis said Fayette’s minority growth is mirroring the rest of the Atlanta metro area.

“Our diversity has been increasing, just like the rest of the area. Gwinnett County is now a majority-minority district,” DeCotis said.

Fayette County now has four schools that are majority-minority students schools (see table), while Coweta County has just one, Ruth Hill Elementary.

Fayette’s majority-minority schools are all centered in the Fayetteville area: North Fayette Elementary, Hood Avenue Elementary, Fayetteville Intermediate Elementary School and Fayette Middle School.

This year, Coweta County had to do a massive rezoning to get Ruth Hill’s minority population down from 70 percent to just under 40 percent, because the county was still under a 1973 federal court order requiring the school system to make sure racial balance was achieved at the schools.

Fayette, on the other hand, is under no such court order, since the minority population in the 1960s through the 1980s was so small.

In order to deal with the increased diversity, DeCotis said the school system has implemented a number of different programs to help the students assimilate into the school system. One of the programs at Cleveland Elementary is called Amigos and focuses on helping students who don’t speak English improve their language skills with student tutors from Fayette County High School.

“We also have reassigned a teacher this year who works with all the schools and helps students and parents who don’t speak English help fill out forms and get adjusted to the school system,” DeCotis added.

School spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach also said step-dancing programs are also in high gear at Fayette County High School and Sandy Creek. Step-dancing has been highly popular with African-American sororities and fraternities at the collegiate level and is now offered at the high schools.

For the last two years, the school system has had cultural awareness training for the staff and is now examining gender differences in teaching approaches. The new students bring a challenge to the school system, but DeCotis said Fayette’s stellar reputation is a selling point.

“We’ve always been a dynamic system and people move here from out of state for a good education experience,” DeCotis said.

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Submitted by Gcat on Fri, 02/17/2006 - 11:35am.

How is it that our schools have 30% minority when as of the census of 2004 we have less than 20% minority? I cannnot believe that it has changed that much! Certainly makes a case for out of district students.

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