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South Hall school districts shuffling

Sterling on the Lake affected as county redraws boundaries

POSTED: December 20, 2007 5:02 a.m.

FLOWERY BRANCH -- South Hall County school principals say they're not hearing much buzz about it, but proposed new attendance boundary lines have caused something of a stir on Sterling on the Lake's Intranet

School officials have redrawn boundaries so that the 1,700-home development between Blackjack and Spout Springs roads has moved from the Friendship Elementary School district to the Spout Springs Elementary School district.

"Overall, I am sure that there is no difference in the caliber of teaching between the schools and having our whole community in one school can't be a bad thing," said Craig Lutz, a Sterling resident, in his online posting.

Currently, part of Sterling is in Spout Springs and the other - the bulk, actually - is in Friendship.
"I would say that it looks like the practical thing to do," Lutz wrote, "but I understand the ties and emotional investments that have been made at Friendship."

The school system is giving the public an opportunity Monday to comment on the move, which school officials say is needed to relieve overcrowding at Friendship and Spout Springs.

The shuffling is made possible through the opening of the new Chestnut Mountain Elementary School off Union Church Road. That school will open in fall 2008.

The school system plans to convert the current Chestnut Mountain school into the World Languages Academy, which possibly could hold state charter status when it opens in the fall of 2008.

All the students currently in Chestnut Mountain's district will remain there, but, under the proposal, the district has swelled to include a big chunk of what used to be in the Spout Springs district.

Chestnut Mountain's lines used to stop at Winder Highway but now would spread south to include neighborhoods off Union Church Road and Old Winder Highway.

Spout Springs' district would include all of the neighborhoods off Spout Springs Road to Williams Road and then east of Spout Springs Road south to the border with Gwinnett County.

Friendship remains mostly the same except for the Sterling move and losing students east of Spout Springs Road in the Thompson Mill area.

Chris Fetterman, who has a child in fourth grade at Friendship, said he "personally doesn't have any problems" with the proposed redistricting.

"If you're going to live in Atlanta or the metro area, your children are bound to go to a couple different schools," he said.

The school system has set up several different ways for those who want to voice an opinion or get some answers about the proposal. The public can meet 5-6 p.m. Monday with Jewel Armour, executive operations director, and Gary Stewart, administrative service director, in the Flowery Branch High School cafeteria. The Hall County Board of Education will hear public comments at the end of its monthly meeting that evening in Flowery Branch High's theater. The meeting is set to start at 5:30 p.m.
Also, parents can e-mail comments to redistrictingcomment@hallco.org.

Last week, the district posted maps showing current and proposed new district lines at the entrances of Chestnut Mountain, Spout Springs and Friendship elementary schools.

In addition, the schools sent home with students a letter from the school board explaining the need for the new boundaries.

"We are committed to keeping as many students as possible in permanent classrooms," says the letter to parents. "Additionally, up to this point, we have been able to resist the ‘mega' schools that many of our neighboring systems have embraced."

The letter also refers to the vast Sterling on the Lake residential development in Flowery Branch.
It's imperative "we move that neighborhood to a district with room for its future explosive growth."

Steve McDaniel, principal at Spout Springs, said that "redistricting is always a challenge, but the feedback that I have received has been positive and supportive."

"There was a lot of interest in the maps when they were posted in our lobby last week, and many people have also picked up the flyer we made available in the front office," he said.

Things have been quieter at Friendship and Chestnut Mountain. Berry Walton, Friendship's principal, said he has "had very little feedback on the issue."

"There have been one or two questions in passing and a few have looked at the maps," he said.
Sabrina May, Chestnut Mountain's principal, said the same for her school.

She said she believes "this is due to the fact that the boundaries for (Chestnut Mountain) are the same with the exception of adding students."

A final decision won't be made on the changes until early next year, school officials have said.



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