The Board of Education is looking at setting more defined elementary school zone attendance boundaries.
The county currently has large swaths of the county that are not zoned, where students are assigned to a nearby elementary school based on proximity and transportation availability. Superintendent Cole Pugh pointed out one area near the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia facility where different students on one street were bused to three different elementary schools.
Pugh said the issue is one that came up frequently when he first started as superintendent about two years ago, and almost everyone he talked to thought needed to be addressed. He said it fits with the school system’s goal to “maximize efficiency and productivity.”
The Advisory Task Force, a group made up of residents, students and employees, have “overwhelming answered, yes, we need long-range facility planning,” Pugh said. The school system is proposing a years-long roll out of a new attendance zone plan that would ultimately feed into 10 schools, including two new facilities and expanded existing schools.
Pugh said the Task Force had “a strong opinion that this is something we need, even though some people will be opposed to it if it impacts them adversely.” He noted there already has been “some creative tension” comparing the school system’s projects for the future and the way things are now, “and I think there will continue to be tension over this topic, and that’s really, probably the way it should be.”
Pugh noted there have been changes to school zonings throughout the years in Troup County. He pointed to the consolidation of the county and cities’ districts about two decades ago, which also lead to the closure of some schools.
“There was a lot of transition of the elementary grades over a period of time, where a number of students might attend three to four different elementary schools during their journey through the elementary grades,” Pugh said. “The Task Force did make the point that they usually got to go together to the different schools, but they did have to actually change schools a lot of times.”
Pugh suggested a public hearing for input on plans, like the new planned attendance zones, tentatively for March 28 at 6 p.m. at the Troup High School auditorium. The date will be set at Thursday's Board of Education meeting.
In the proposal, starting with the 2013-2014 school year in August, all new enrolling students will be assigned to their new elementary attendance zone school. Students enrolled prior to the 2013-2014 school year will not be affected unless they moved to a different attendance zone.
Pugh gave three options the school system could use for new enrolling students who have older siblings already attending a different school:
•Siblings who enter school in the 2013-2014 school year would not be “grandfathered” into their older sibling’s school.
•Siblings who enter school in the 2013-2014 school year would be “grandfathered” into their older sibling’s school if there is space available. The school system may choose to provide transportation to those students.
•Siblings will be “grandfathered” no matter what school year they enroll, if space is available. The school system may choose to provide transportation to those students.
Pugh said anyone affected who wanted to seek a hardship exception could apply to the Office of Student Assignment.
Plans for facilities outlined by Pugh Monday for the upcoming year are:
•Close Unity Elementary School and relocate students to their projected attendance zone school, a move the school system began when the Board of Education approved closing the school last month.
•Redraw and implement attendance zones.
•Build a new elementary school, potentially at the Ethel Kight Magnet School site, an estimated $16.6 million from SPLOST funds.
•Add six to eight classrooms at Callaway Elementary School, $2.1 million in SPLOST funds.
•Add 10 to 12 classrooms at Franklin Forest Elementary School, $3.2 million in SPLOST funds.
Following the 2013-2014 school year, Pugh outlined the following steps of the plan:
•School year 2015-2016: occupy the proposed new Ethel Kight Elementary School.
•School year 2016-2017: a fifth educational SPLOST will be on the ballot; the school system will begin planning for a second new elementary school, potentially in the southeast area of LaGrange, at a projected cost of $16.6 million in SPLOST funds.
•School year 2017-2018: construct the new elementary school; make classroom additions at other campuses, potentially five to seven classrooms to Hogansville Elementary School, $1.8 million in SPLOST funds, and six to eight classrooms to West Point Elementary School, $2.1 million in SPLOST funds.
•School year 2018-2019: occupy the second new elementary school; close two elementary schools, possibly Mountville and Berta Weathersbee; move the remaining students to their projected elementary attendance zones.
•Other investments planned for 2017 through 2022: repair and upgrades to roofing, HVAC and technology; purchase buses; make physical education improvements and classroom additions for growth. However Pugh noted all investments after 2019 will be based on availability of funding.
Editor's note: Story amended with corrections.