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Hall schools: Shifting grade levels will ease overcrowding

Plan avoids redistricting entire system

POSTED: August 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

The new Hall County school, now under construction off Spout Springs Road, will help ease overcrowding at C.W. Davis Middle and Flowery Branch High schools. School officials originally planned for the new school to house sixth- through 12th-graders, but now might only place 10th- through 12th-graders there.

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Hall County educators fielded few complaints from parents concerned about the district’s proposal to shuffle some middle and high school grade levels to different schools in the Flowery Branch area.

At a public hearing Monday evening, the Hall County Board of Education presented its proposal to create a 10th- through 12th-grade school at the new school being built off Spout Springs Road. The school is slated to open in August 2009.

The restructuring calls for sixth- and seventh-graders to remain at C.W. Davis Elementary School, and for eighth-graders to join ninth-graders at the current Flowery Branch High School.

About 100 parents attended the meeting at the new Chestnut Mountain Elementary School, but only a few questioned the proposal’s effectiveness.

Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County schools, said the board originally planned to use the $36.5 million Spout Springs school as a joint middle and high school. The original plan would require redistricting for all county schools — an emotional measure the board aims to avoid.

Parents who questioned the reconfiguring rather than the more traditional redistricting approach voiced concerns about traffic and busing issues.

Schofield said the new school had three exits, and the board would study the traffic issues in the area to alleviate congestion.

Many parents supported the reconfiguration.

Johnny Johnson is a parent of two students in the Flowery Branch cluster, which is comprised of Friendship and Spout Springs elementaries, as well as part of Martin and Flowery Branch elementaries, C.W. Davis Middle and Flowery Branch High schools. He said he supports the eighth- and ninth-grade transition school.

"There’s a huge difference between a sixth-grader and an eighth-grader," Johnson said. "We’re actually going to create a better community for Flowery Branch. I’ve been very concerned for the last couple of years about how we’re going to manage redistricting, and this remedies that concern."

Schofield said the school system might add more transition schools to alleviate overcrowding problems in the future.

Richard Higgins, chairman of the Hall County school board, said when the construction of the new facility was proposed years ago, the board expected enrollment to expand more evenly across Hall County. But as the new school’s opening draws near, it is clear that the county’s growth is concentrated primarily in the Flowery Branch area.

Schofield said the proposal to use the new 1,500-student capacity school as a 10th- through 12th-grade school allows the district to accommodate the drastic enrollment increase in South Hall schools without having to redistrict.

Flowery Branch High School is expected to top 2,000 students by 2012, Schofield said.

He said the Flowery Branch schools cluster picked up 1,050 students during the past five years, as compared to the Chestatee cluster, which picked up 380 students, and the West Hall cluster, which picked up 102 students during that time.

Schofield said on average, all Hall County clusters picked up 300 students in the past five years. A cluster is made up of all the elementary and middle schools that feed into one high school.

If the board adopts the restructuring proposal presented to parents Monday, Schofield said the Spout Springs school will start off the 2009 school year with 900 to 1,000 students in the 10th through 12th grades.

Higgins said the school board likely will take action on the restructuring proposal at its board meeting on Sept. 8.



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