NCSS shifts students to new school
BOE reopens enrollment for two theme schools

COVINGTON - Fifth-grade students at Livingston Elementary and South Salem Elementary schools won't attend Veterans Memorial Middle School next school year, as they previously expected.

During Tuesday's monthly meeting, the Newton County Board of Education members unanimously approved a motion to allow rising sixth-grade students from Livingston and South Salem elementary schools to be assigned to Liberty Middle School for the 2009-10 school year. The new school on Salem Road is expected to open this summer in time for the beginning of the school year.

The board acted on a recommendation from Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley, who said this reassignment will help overcrowded conditions at Veterans Memorial Middle School. It was not part of the work session agenda last week.

"In looking at the need to downsize Veterans Memorial Middle School, two options were considered," Whatley said in a memo to board members. "Leaving Veterans at a projected 1,450 students for the 2009-10 (school year) or reassigning the current fifth-graders at Livingston and South Salem as rising sixth-graders from Veterans to Liberty Middle School."

He said this is a reassignment of one grade, rather than a reassignment of students based on changing existing attendance lines on the west side of the county.

Whatley said school system officials looked at various elementary feeder schools to determine a possible strategy to help out Veterans, which operates with about 20 trailers.

"We saw the fifth-grade students at South Salem and Livingston were in close proximity to Liberty and would have been going to Veterans," Whatley said. "The estimated number of fifth- to sixth-grade students from Livingston and South Salem to be assigned to Liberty Middle is 250."

Whatley said the reassignment would bring the enrollment at Veterans - which was built to accommodate 850 students - to 1,200. School system officials project that enrollment for Liberty Middle School next school year will be 864 students, including the 250 additional students now expected, along with students from Clements Middle that were reassigned due to the opening of the parent-involvement theme school there.

The board members also agreed to reopen enrollment to the parent-involvement theme schools until an unspecified date in order to help with any other overcrowding.

"There's no reason to close it - we're not anywhere near full there," said board member Johnny Smith.

As of April 13, enrollment at the Fairview Elementary theme school was 421 students in prekindergarten through second grades, down from the 449 students that NCSS reported in March, and enrollment at the Clements Middle theme school was 432 students in third through seventh grades, down from the 455 students it reported in March. Parents had until April 3 to withdraw their students' applications to the theme schools for the 2009-10 school year.

The board also plans to look at housing the prekindergarten program at Live Oak Elementary School, which is scheduled to open for the 2009-10 school year, at the Fairview Elementary theme school to free up more room there, but it has made no final decisions regarding the discussion.

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