With three replacement elementary schools to be built in the South Cobb and Smyrna area over the next couple of years, the Cobb County School District is wasting no time getting started on redistricting plans.
The three new schools–Mableton Elementary and Clarkdale Elementary, to be finished in August 2012, and a new Smyrna elementary school, to be completed in August 2013– will have much larger student populations, thereby relieving overcrowding at nearby elementary schools.
There, community stakeholders will be provided an outline of what the redistricting process will look like over the coming year and will have their preliminary questions answered, said Doug Shepard, the district’s chief SPLOST administration officer.
However, Shepard did share information about the redistricting process at the town hall meeting held by Board of Education Member David Morgan last week with about 75 parents, students and administrators.
Currently, the district is composing a map of all the neighborhoods throughout South Cobb and Smyrna, which will be available online one week before the May 17 redistricting informational meeting at Campbell High School.
“From the way we’ve mapped this out, every school has at least 20 neighborhoods,” Shepard said.
Although the maps have not yet been drawn, Shepard said CCSD is seeking input about linkages between neighborhoods and development trends.
“If you can tell us those linkages between different neighborhoods, we’ll make an effort to make sure that they (students) go to the same school,” Shepard said.
Parents, teachers and community members can voice their thoughts on any aspect of the redistricting process by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It’s not the quantity of the comments we get, it’s the quality of the comments, and how they speak to the criteria we’re looking for, the things that we’re trying to do, which are…minimizing transportation time and distance and eliminating portable classrooms,” he said.
Proximity of students to the schools, school capacity and feeder pattern alignment are the main factors being considered for redistricting, Shepard said, adding that race and socioeconomic factors will not be considered.
Because the Smyrna elementary school is a “replacement” school, one existing Smyrna school will close. Which school will close has not yet been determined. However, due to the current problem of overcrowding, “it would be increasingly difficult to close more than two schools. We need to be mindful that our goal is elimination of portable classrooms,” Shepard said.
Besides splitting children from their friends or enduring additional transportation hardships, some parents said their biggest redistricting concerns were how it would affect their schools’ current administration.
“I think it’s highly unlikely that a principal would lose job because of school closure,” Shepard said.
The district has a “practice of reassigning principals” to various schools after others retire or through natural attrition, he explained.
Currently, Shepard explained, the redistricting process timeline looks like this:
1. The first public meeting will be held on May 17 at Campbell High School to provide neighborhood maps. Community stakeholders will provide feedback on the maps, which will serve as the basis of drawing district boundary lines.
2. A second public meeting to present redistricting options will be held at the beginning of the school year. CCSD will solicit feedback from parents about the best options or the best components of the presented options, Shepard explained.
3. CCSD will compile the comments and “go back to the drawing board again,” in November or December, Shepard estimated.
4. The final redistricting map will be presented to the Board of Education for a vote in February or March 2012.
For those seeking additional information, Cobb County Schools has established a website for redistricting information and details.