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School system plans for rezoning

COVINGTON - The Newton County School System held its first of four elementary school meetings concerning attendance rezoning as a result of the addition of South Salem Elementary School, which is expected to open in time for the start of the 2008-09 school year.

"Four current elementary schools will be affected in the rezoning process: Livingston Elementary, Oak Hill Elementary, Porterdale Elementary and West Newton Elementary," according to a press release from the Newton County School System sent Friday afternoon. "Although rezoning will help alleviate overcrowding conditions in these schools, only a little less than 8 percent, or approximately 700 out of 8,800 elementary students projected for the enrollment in the elementary schools for the 2008-09 school year will be affected by the shift in attendance lines."

According to the release, the proposed rezoning map would move approximately 292 students from Livingston Elementary, 79 from Oak Hill, 179 from Porterdale and 134 from West Newton to South Salem Elementary.

"The areas affected by the rezoning include: the northern part of the current Livingston and Oak Hill attendance areas, the western part of the existing Porterdale attendance area and the eastern part of the West Newton attendance area," the release reads.

The school system plans to hold meetings this week and next at the individual schools to inform parents of the changes and answer any questions they may have regarding the new attendance lines.

The first meeting was held Monday at Livingston during its Family Night, during which NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley presented a slide show and answered

several questions.

The next school system meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria at West Newton Elementary School during the PTO meeting, followed by a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria at Porterdale Elementary School. Oak Hill families will hear a presentation at 7 p.m. March 27 in its cafeteria during Title I Bingo for Book.

"We encourage parents ... to attend these meetings," Whatley said in the press release. "We will be showing maps of the existing school zones and how they will be affected once the South Salem Elementary School opens. This will be the best opportunity for parents to view the maps and ask questions."

Hard copies of both current attendance boundaries and the proposed boundaries, as well as a list of the affected streets, are available at the meetings. Letters also were sent home with students at the affected schools.

The rezoning is a result of months of research and calculations from school system officials, Whatley said Monday during Livingston's meeting.

"Before we could draw lines, we had to have a current map of the county ... (and) we had to merge it with our student information," Whatley said during Livingston's meeting.

This included looking at current attendance zones, the capacity of the schools, the growth in attendance zones, neighborhoods, traffic conditions, feeder schools and other factors.

"We had to make certain students located on the streets and count the number of students to determine what we needed at South Salem ... and what it would leave at the other schools," Whatley said during Monday's meeting.

This school year, Livingston has 935 students and 16 trailers; Porterdale has 871 students and 12 trailers; West Newton has 1,003 students and 17 trailers; and Oak Hill has 852 students and 12 trailers.

With South Salem built to accommodate 1,000 students, during the 2008-09 school year, it is estimated to hold 813 students from these districts and estimated growth, leaving Livingston with 585 students, Porterdale with 660, West Newton with 843 and Oak Hill with 760.

If those numbers are the same at the beginning on the 2008-09 school year, only Porterdale and West Newton will be left with trailers on their campuses. The other three schools will be under original building capacity.

"We know we are going to grow in these zones; that's why we located South Salem where we did ... with the centrality between the other schools," Whatley said Monday.

Students who will be in fifth grade for the 2008-09 school year have in the past been given the option to remain in their original school if the parent provides transportation. Otherwise, that student will attend the assigned school.

Whatley said parents who have a student going into fifth grade, as well as another student in a lower grade, must transfer the lower grade student in any situation, even if the fifth-grade student remains at the current school.

Also, students who transferred to different schools under the Choice program when schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress may be allowed to stay in their current schools, but parents may have to provide transportation, Whatley said. That will be announced at a later date.

The proposed attendance zone lines will be voted on by the Newton County Board of Education during an April meeting. Its April work session is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 15 and its monthly meeting is set for 7 p.m. April 22. All meetings are held in the board room at the Newton County Board of Education Building, located at 2109 Newton Drive.

Once the rezoning map is approved, letters of student assignments will be sent to parents and guardians.

No middle or high schools are affected during this current rezoning process, Whatley said.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

What: Newton County School System Rezoning Meetings

When and Where: 7 p.m. Thursday - West Newton Elementary cafeteria

7 p.m. Tuesday - Porterdale Elementary cafeteria

7 p.m. March 27 - Oak Hill Elementary cafeteria

More Information: Visit www.newtoncountyschools.org