South Hall residents voiced concerns and offered solutions — including postponement — to a proposed school redistricting plan during a public hearing Tuesday night at Johnson High School.
School officials have proposed new school attendance lines to take effect when a seventh middle and high school open in August 2018 at the current Flowery Branch High School. Flowery Branch would move back to its former home at Davis Middle and Davis would move back to its former home at the current South Hall Middle. South Hall Middle would move back to the Academies of Discovery. Some Johnson High School students would also be moved under the proposal.
Thirteen of the approximately 100-150 people spoke to Hall County School Board members, school officials and the community at the meeting in the school gym. A little over half of the speakers came from the Sterling on the Lake community.
Leo Veiga, one of the Sterling on the Lake residents, said he would prefer the current Flowery Branch High School become a larger high school.
“I love the fact of the small schools, but there’s going to come to a point in time when we have to plan for the big schools,” Veiga said.
Brian and Jennifer Kovach, also Sterling residents, said they were concerned that elementary schools, including Spout Springs where their son attends, would not all go to the same middle school, and Jennifer Kovach told the board they have a son with a neurological disorder that affects his speech.
“When he started school, my biggest concern was he was going to be picked on for his speech and it was going to affect his academics and socially and then he was going to hate school,” she said. “The opposite has been the case. He loves school. My (feeling) is he’s going to be at a huge transitional point in his life, and those relationships that made school where he feels safe and can raise his hand and participate and they accept him for who he is, and he’s going to be torn from those kids.”
She said Friendship Elementary was in the same position and suggested the lines be redrawn to allow each elementary school to have all of its students go to the same middle and high schools.
Chris Fetterman, another Sterling resident, asked officials to consider postponing any decision for six months.
“I’m really concerned fiscally, what are we spending for all these upgrades versus what we could spend on an addition to the high school (at the current Flowery Branch),” he said. “Why don’t you postpone this a little bit? Why don’t you engage us and see what we want and sit down with us?”
Michael Johnson was another of four residents who asked the board to postpone the plan to give more time to look at alternatives.
“I feel we should postpone what we are doing right now and really look at it a little bit more, look at the growth,” Johnson said. “I would like to see that money spent on additional academic classrooms to deal with the growth at the current Flowery Branch High School.”
Robin Sealey asked for a delay in the plan, expressing concerns about having middle and high school students on the same campus.
“I ask that you really think long and hard about having middle school and high school students in (the) same schools,” she said. “You should give us the opportunity to have question and answer (meetings), just really pray on it and think on it.”
Shannon Scherer asked questions about whether all high schools would have the same curriculum and what the protocol would be for grandfathering in students who were getting close to their senior year in high school.
Zach Kuznicky said he didn’t think moving his attendance zone from Johnson to the new school made sense.
“It looks like you’re coming up to our little area and yanking us down there and I can only imagine it’s for something like test scores because it makes no sense geographically,” he said.
Craig Lutz, a Flowery Branch parent, said his oldest daughter took 14 Advanced Placement classes in high school and questioned if his younger daughter would have that same opportunity once the new high school opens.
“My youngest daughter is currently a freshman. If she doesn’t have the same opportunity as my oldest daughter then you guys have failed her,” Lutz said. “If this starts to affect test scores in the future, that’s going to affect property values and then you’ve failed me. I get a sense this is a done deal and we’re just speaking to get it off our chest. I really hope you give a little more consideration to us.”
Another public hearing is set for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Flowery Branch High School.