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School board discusses updated zoning

The Troup County School Board listened to new proposed attendance boundaries for the school system’s elementary schools on Monday night. The presentation, given by superintendent Dr. Cole Pugh, gave detailed information on the number of students who would move from one elementary school to another at the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year, provided the board votes to approve in April.

The March work session discussion was the fourth step in a six-step decision-making process. A public hearing will be the fifth step, followed by a decision at an April board meeting. The date and time for the public hearing will be set during Thursday’s meeting.

Pugh gave detailed numbers for how many students would move from one school to another based on the proposed plan. 

“There would be 65 to 88 (students) going from Callaway to Clearview, depending on grandfathering,” Pugh said during the meeting. “From Rosemont, 73-95 to Clearview. This would reduce Callaway and Rosemont (attendance) the first year, Franklin Forest the second year.”

In 2018-19, Callaway Elementary attendance is estimated to be between 671 and 694, while Rosemont attendance would be between 512 and 534. Franklin Forest would have an opening enrollment of 732 students in 2018-19.

The proposal would also move 100 students from Franklin Forest to Berta Weathersbee, but the recommendation is to hold on that specific element of the boundary restructure until the 2019-20 school year.

“Berta Weathersbee has changed significantly in the last year, but they have a new administration and staff, and we would like to give them one more year to work together before we send a large number of students over there,” Pugh said.

The proposed plan would however move 21 students to Berta Weathersbee Elementary School at the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year, six from Ethel Kight Elementary School and 15 from Clearview.

Whitesville Road Elementary, which will close at the end of its academic year, currently has 545 students, 457 of which are in pre-k through fourth grade. Those 457 students will be attending the new Clearview Elementary School at the start of the 2018-19 academic year, located on South Davis Road.

The additions from surrounding schools and subtractions to Berta Weathersbee will leave the school with anywhere from 624 to 669, depending on grandfathering.

The grandfathering option allows for rising fifth grade students to be grandfathered in to their current school for the 2018-19 year, and allows for siblings of rising fifth graders to be grandfathered in to their current school for the same year, but they would then be required to move to new zoned school the following year. Transportation would be provided for those students to their grandfathered schools for the 2018-19 year.

“There could be no grandfathering, that’s one option, you’re assigned and you go,” Pugh said. “This is a level below that.”

The attendance boundaries have not been adjusted since 2011. Prior to that, no adjustment had been made since 1995.  Budgetary constraints compelled the board to do so in 2011. The update helped the school system save on expense by being more deliberate on bussing students to schools within a certain geographic area.

“In the fall of 2011, we started talking to the advisory task force about (attendance boundaries),” Pugh said during the meeting.

“We were then having budget difficulties, and one of the recommendations from the task force was to stop bussing students all over the county because that costs extra money.”

Now, on the recommendation of the advisory task force, the board is reviewing the attendance boundaries more frequently than before. 

“This is something we have to do,” board member Joe Franklin said. “A lot of work and discussion has gone into this. A lot of people don’t like moving schools. This probably won’t be the last time we do this, probably in another year or two we’ll do it again. There has been a tremendous amount of work done by this group, I commend it.”

“We’ve looked at numbers and budgets,” Pugh added. “But this is not just a financial decision, this is what we feel is best for the entire school system while opening up a new school.”