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Proposed school district
lines under fire

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  The Henry County Board of Education has approved a 60-day public comment period for three new proposed district maps that would affect boundary lines for several elementary, middle and high schools – but the public comment actually began with a bang at Monday night’s board meeting.

For about 90 minutes, parents spoke in opposition to two of the proposals.

  One map suggests changes for the Eagle’s Landing and Union Grove districts. Officials have recommended moving a portion of Union Grove students – in certain neighborhoods along the Hwy. 42 corridor and off Brannan Road – to Eagle’s Landing to alleviate overcrowding at Union Grove, which now has a large number of trailers. Renovations underway at Eagle’s Landing will be completed in time to handle this influx of students next fall. It is estimated that 200-250 middle and high school students would be affected.

  Residents of four subdivisions –Magnolias, Highlands, Summit and St. Andrews – spoke passionately in favor of keeping their children in the Union Grove district. They cited a number of concerns, including academic performance at Union Grove and transportation difficulties that would be created by the change. One of the speakers was a Union Grove eighth-grader, and she asked not to be transferred out of her district.

  The other map that stirred opposition involves two elementary schools, Smith-Barnes and Stockbridge, which currently are the only schools not under the same elementary model as the rest of the county in that Stockbridge serves kindergarten through third grade while Smith-Barnes is for grades 4-5.

  Under the proposal, both schools would be consolidated at the Stockbridge campus to create a true K-5 elementary school. To do this, school officials would have to compensate for the influx of students by transferring some of them to Cotton Indian Elementary, which can accommodate more students than are currently enrolled.

  Should this map be approved, officials would then consider what to do with the Smith-Barnes campus. One idea that has been suggested is to make it the campus of Patrick Henry High School, whose current campus – the old Stockbridge High School site – is by far the oldest facility in the school system, according to a spokesperson.

  None of this was palatable to the parents who spoke Monday night. Several were against the idea of abandoning Smith-Barnes Elementary, saying that their children were proud of their school despite its disrepair compared to other county schools.

  One speaker identified herself as a great-niece of educator Rosetta Smith, a longtime educator and one of the two people after which Smith-Barnes was named when she helped provide the land on which the campus sits. This speaker said she had no problem with the Patrick Henry relocation as long as the Smith-Barnes name is retained.

  Regarding both maps, a number of parents said they did not like the fact that they had only heard about the proposals recently, alleging that school system officials had been working on them for some time without letting citizens get involved in the discussion.

  The other proposed map involves Hampton High School, which is scheduled to open next fall, and the map in question shows the same boundaries that are currently in place for Hampton Middle School. Should the map be approved, the only existing high school affected would be Luella, which is also the largest school in the county. No one commented publicly at Monday’s meeting regarding this map.

  The only board member who commented on the issue was Erik Charles, who said he first heard of the proposals last November.

  “I was against them then, and I am against them now,” he said.

  The maps will likely be considered and voted on at the December regular meeting. They are currently accessible on the school system’s web site, www.henry.k12.ga.us, by going to the right side of the home page and clicking on “For Public Review and Comment” under the “Site Shortcuts” column.

In other action:

* The board approved a petition to convert Hampton Elementary School to a charter school. The charter proposal was reviewed by a committee consisting of more than a dozen school system officials. Now that local board approval has been granted, the charter petition must be submitted to the Georgia Board of Education no later than Nov. 1. About two dozen people from Hampton attended Monday’s meeting in support of the petition.

* The board approved new policies regarding health education, gender equity in sports, promotion/retention, and parent in-volvement in education. All were presented in September for 30 days of public review, and no public comments were received. More detailed information about these policies can be found on the school system’s web site.

* A bid of $582,515 was accepted for roof repairs at five county schools.

 

 

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