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Annexation could add hundreds of students to city schools
Gainesville schools chief concerned about overcrowding
1108schools mja
Children play on the playground of Riverbend Elementary School, which is a Hall County school. Possible annexations by the city of Gainesville could mean the county school would be nearly surrounded by city land. It also could put hundreds of students currently living in county attendance zones — including some in the Riverbend Circle area — in the Gainesville city limits. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville’s pending annexation of unincorporated islands in Hall County could cause up to 500 county students to transfer into the Gainesville school system next year, according to the Gainesville schools superintendent.

Merrianne Dyer, superintendent of Gainesville schools, said Gainesville is planning to annex 563 individual properties in December. Dyer said the 526-acre annexation would incorporate 445 residential properties into the Gainesville city limits, bringing an estimated 300 to 500 Hall County students into Gainesville schools.

The city of Gainesville mailed letters to affected property owners on Oct. 31, alerting them of the proposed island annexation. Two general information meetings will be held to discuss the annexations and their effect on city and county school systems. The first will take place Monday and the second on Nov. 17. The city will take final action on the proposed annexations on Dec. 16.

Current Hall County students living in the potentially annexed areas likely would not be required to transfer to a city school until August 2009, Dyer said. Even next year, Dyer said the city school system has an agreement with Hall County schools that would allow established county students residing on newly annexed city property to remain enrolled in county schools as they wish.

But upon the start of the 2009-10 school year, Dyer said new students living in newly annexed Gainesville territory will be required to enroll in city schools.

"Should (the properties) be annexed, the kindergarten or new students would go to county schools as of next fall," Dyer said.

She said the city planning and development department currently is performing a study to determine just how many students are likely to transfer into the city school system as a result of the annexations. The Gainesville school board has also asked the city to review narrow roads or one-way streets in the proposed annexation territory that may need to be widened to accommodate city school buses.

Dyer said three areas to be annexed could pose overcrowding problems for the 6,000-student city school system — the Black and Cooley Drive area, the Riverbend Circle area and the area southeast of Dorsey Street near Auburn Avenue.

"We’re concerned because that’s a lot of students in a highly dense area," she said. "Depending on where they chose to go to school, it could overcrowd or fill up more of our schools."

In addition, a string of properties on Limestone Parkway is proposed to be annexed, which would cause Hall County’s Riverbend Elementary School to be nearly surrounded by city property.

Dyer said the Gainesville school system made an agreement with Hall County schools in June 2007 that allows the county to keep the property tax revenue for county property annexed into the city. In return, the city is allowed to keep the per student funding granted by the state for each student residing in the annexed territory who transfers to a city school.

The city school system hopes to know more about the details of the annexation and its effect on schools by the Nov. 17 public meeting, Dyer said.