BOE OKs school rezoning

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Newton County elementary schools will be rezoned as planned, but some rising middle school students and their families will have to wait a little longer before they know what school they will attend next school year.

The Newton County Board of Education passed a motion to accept the elementary school rezoning as presented by the Newton County School System during the board's monthly meeting Tuesday night. After school board members Eddie Johnson and Almond Turner failed to pass a motion for the entire rezoning process that included middle school zones and feeder patterns, the remaining board members -- Cathy Dobbs, Greg Proffitt and Johnny Smith -- voted to accept only the elementary rezoning and table the middle school portion of the plan.

"I'm not in favor of the feeder system for middle schools or high schools," Smith said. "Our system is not set up for that."

About 10 percent of middle school students would have been affected by the rezoning and would have to change middle schools that they would be zoned for this school year, according to the plan. Each middle school was affected by the plan.

Instead of approving the plan, Smith charged NCSS officials to come up with something else.

"We're trying to fix a problem, but it didn't completely fix it," Smith said. "We need to go back to the drawing board ... and let's fix the plan completely instead of trying to patch it. I know it will take some time."

All of the board members were in favor of the proposed elementary school rezoning plan, which is expected to affect about 30 percent of the 9,500 elementary school students in NCSS.

The plan, which was developed due to the opening of a new elementary school on Airport Road in north Newton County next year and overcrowding in many NCSS schools, is expected to delay the need to build additions to existing facilities and provide the ability to redirect local sales tax funds to areas like technology. It also will prevent most buses from traveling more than five or six miles per trip, as well as alleviate the need for modular classrooms at the elementary schools, according to Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent for operations at NCSS.

Some students will have to change schools and some faculty and staff will be reassigned as a result.

The plan calls for Ficquett Elementary School to become the elementary level parent-involvement theme school, instead of the current Fairview Theme School, which will be reverted into a regular elementary school. Carpenter said this will allow growth into a kindergarten through eighth-grade theme school model that is planned for the conversion of the current Eastside High School facility in approximately 2016. Ficquett will serve kindergarten through sixth grades next school year.

The plan calls for all of Palmer Stone Elementary School's students to attend the new elementary school, which has a capacity of 1,500 students. Approximately 40 percent of Ficquett Elementary School students also will attend the new elementary school, while 35 percent of students are expected to attend East Newton Elementary School, 18 percent for Middle Ridge Elementary School and 7 percent will attend Heard-Mixon Elementary School.

No changes will occur to the student zones of Mansfield and Oak Hill elementary schools, and no significant changes will occur at Porterdale Elementary School. Additionally, the plan doesn't result in any significant changes in demographics -- such as ethnicities and those students who are on the free and reduced lunch plan -- at any school, officials reported.

Zoning maps are available at each school and on the NCSS Web site, www.newtoncountyschools.org.