NCSS plans elementary rezoning

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- About 30 percent of the Newton County School System's 9,500 elementary school students are expected to be affected by next school year's rezoning plans.

NCSS officials Tuesday presented proposed boundary changes for elementary schools for the 2011-12 school year to Newton County Board of Education members during the board's monthly work session.

Due to the planned opening of a new elementary school on Airport Road near Ga. Highway 142 in north Newton County next school year, as well as some overcrowding in many NCSS schools, officials decided to redraw school district lines for the 2011-12 school year.

RaNae Fendley, director of Student Services for NCSS, told the school board that officials used a student transportation software feature to help determine the new zones, which were based on addresses, not schools attended. They also met with the superintendent's executive leadership team, select central office administrators, elementary school principals and the transportation department to help determine the proposed zones.

NCSS Deputy Superintendent Dennis Carpenter said officials also wanted to align the use of school system buildings with the current state-approved, five-year facilities plan, maintain board-approved middle school feeder patterns, maximize classroom space at the elementary schools and eliminate the need for use of portable classrooms in elementary schools.

Carpenter said the plan will delay the need to build additions to existing facilities and provide the ability to redirect local special purpose local option sales tax funds to areas like technology. It also will alleviate the need for most buses to travel more than 5 or 6 miles per trip.

The plan requires some students to change schools and some faculty and staff to 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 to be housed at the current Eastside High School facility in approximately 2016. This proposal was outlined in the NCSS facilities plan earlier this year.

The rezoning plan also will allow NCSS to maintain a school, Ficquett Elementary, within the Covington city limits, which is favored by NCSS, Carpenter said. Ficquett and Palmer Stone elementary schools, as well as Newton High School, are planned to be phased out of state funding, according to the NCSS facilities plan. NCSS also maintains Sharp Learning Center, which was previously phased out of state funding. Without state funding, all building repairs and upkeep must come from local funding. NCSS has not announced whether it will maintain Newton High.

The proposed rezoning plan calls for all of Palmer Stone Elementary School's students to attend the new elementary school. Approximately 40 percent of Ficquett Elementary School students will attend the new elementary school, while 35 percent are planned to attend East Newton Elementary School. Middle Ridge Elementary will receive 18 percent of Palmer Stone's students, and Heard-Mixon Elementary will receive 7 percent.

Carpenter said if all of Palmer Stone and Ficquett students were zoned for the new school, enrollment would exceed the school's 1,500-student capacity by about 150 students.

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, Fendley said.

About 10 percent of middle school students may be affected by the rezoning and have to change middle schools, Carpenter said.

Rezoning maps are available online at www.newtoncountyschools.org and at each elementary school.

NCSS officials will hold two public meetings for parents and community members to hear more information and provide feedback before the school board approves the final rezoning plan. The meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 30 at Eastside High School and 6 p.m. Dec. 6 at Alcovy High School.

"We encourage parents of elementary students to attend these meetings," Carpenter said. "We will be showing maps of the existing school zones and the changes recommended in the new plan. This will be the best opportunity for parents to view the maps and ask questions."

The board is scheduled to approve a plan on Dec. 14 during a combined monthly work session and regular meeting at 7 p.m. in the board room at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington.