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High school attendance lines may be redrawn next year

COVINGTON -- Some high schoolers in Newton County may not continue attending their current high schools next school year.

During the monthly work session of the Newton County Board of Education last week, Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley recommended that the school board allow the system to move forward with rezoning its high schools for the 2010-11 school year.

Whatley said a shift in population and an increasing number of students moving into the county, as well as the impending opening of classroom additions at Alcovy High School, has warranted a need for rezoning.

He said this school year, 1,000 high school seniors are expected to graduate and 1,450 eighth-graders are moving up. According to the Feb. 4 enrollment report, 5,140 students were enrolled in NCSS's three high schools; this is 247 more than last school year and a decrease of 112 from Jan. 8, 2010.

If approved, system officials will redraw lines based on minimizing changes to current attendance areas and considering the capacity of the schools, growth of zones, proximity to schools, neighborhood boundaries and feeder school assignments.

"But we are now to a point where we can't say, 'You never have to change high schools or middle schools if you live here,'" Whatley said during Thursday's Kiwanis Club of Covington meeting. "Because of rapid growth, usually we are four or five years behind. There will always be changes in zones to accommodate it."

Whatley's recommendation also includes the board allowing rising 12th-grade students to remain at the schools they attended during the 2009-10 school year; if allowed, transportation would be the responsibility of the parent or guardian, and discipline and attendance would be monitored to prevent any problems.

The school board is expected to vote on the recommendation at its next meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Newton County Board of Education building, located at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington.

The board also will have to approve at a future meeting the attendance lines once they are redrawn. The attendance lines are scheduled to be presented in March.

Once approved, system officials will complete the redistribution of staff and any hiring for high schools.

Two public meetings will be held at a later date to be announced, and assignment letters will be sent to parents of students in April.