Cobb school board approves redistricting

More than 2,500 students will swap schools under a redistricting approved in Cobb County Thursday night.

The change in attendance lines will affect two dozen schools over the next two school years. The moves will occur on the county's south side, where population shifts caused crowding at some schools and low attendance at others.

Some 15,000 of Cobb's 107,000 students attend those schools. Two old -- and expensive to operate -- buildings will be shuttered as students switch to new and bigger facilities and merge with children from crowded schools. About 60 portables will be eliminated, and the consolidation will save money on busing, officials said.

About a dozen parents showed up for a public hearing before the vote, several of them speaking against the closure of Brown and Sky View elementary schools. They are concerned about the size of the new schools and the programs that will be left behind.

Officials have promised to replicate classes for adults, such as one on parenting skills at Sky View, which has a relatively large low-income and Hispanic population. But parents are skeptical that the quality will remain the same when they move to a rebuilt Mableton Elementary in August.

"I don't think they'll have the same level of programming," said Erin Stack, a mother of two children at Sky View.

Parents at Brown decried the scale of Smyrna Area Elementary School, where their children will head in the fall of 2013. It will hold three times the 300 students at Brown, a place where the staff seems to know every child and parent's names.

Several also complained about the timing of Thursday's hearing -- 5:30 p.m. on a weeknight. People have jobs, kids have soccer practice and then there's  rush hour traffic. If the school board truly wanted their opinions, the hearing would have been held at their schools, said Michelle Murphy, a mother at Brown.

"Clearly that was not the case," Murphy said. "So many voices will go unheard."

But officials said they heard the concerns during four rounds of public meetings since October. Plans were adjusted after each meeting. A whole neighborhood was shifted into Smyrna Area Elementary after neighbors complained in December about the quality of the school they originally were zoned to attend. The redistricting and school closures were approved 7-0.

"Unfortunately, with the population growth it's very difficult to maintain smaller schools and remain efficient with taxpayer money," said board member Tim Stultz.