New Gwinnett school zones posted

Boundary shift affects 9,000 schoolkids

The home schools of about 9,000 students could change in August 2010 as Gwinnett Schools kicks off its bittersweet redistricting campaign to relieve overcrowding in the state’s largest school district. Thousands of students and staff at 29 schools are slated to be re-routed to different campuses in the fall of 2010 as the district cuts back on trailers and draws boundaries for six new schools.

Some students will not only be switching schools, they will be switching clusters and reporting to new middle and high schools. Others will stay close to home and continue on to the same middle and high schools their siblings attended.

“We realize change isn’t easy,” said Sloan Roach, Gwinnett Schools spokeswoman. “We also know that the opening of a new school is something to celebrate. What we have seen in the past is ... people who may not have been real excited about the change, once they get to their new school ... their enthusiasm is just over the top.”

Students in South Gwinnett, Shiloh, Central Gwinnett, Berkmar, Meadowcreek, Peachtree Ridge and the North Gwinnett clusters of neighborhood schools may see some changes in their elementary, middle or high schools.

One of the two high schools that will receive new students – Meadowcreek High – is on the state’s Needs Improvement list of struggling campuses Meadowcreek, however, made adequate yearly progress goals for students in 2008-09. The other school is Shiloh High, which also made AYP.

Parents can fill out comment cards to share their views on the proposed boundary changes and send them to district officials. The proposed maps are available on the Gwinnett Schools Web site at www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us and at schools slated to be impacted by redistricting. A public hearing on the proposed attendance zone changes will be held on Nov. 19 at the school district’s headquarters in Suwanee.

Parent Anji Mabon, who has a rising kindergartner in 2010, says she is concerned about the redistricting. She relocated to Gwinnett County from Minnesota after hearing about the district’s reputation for high-performing schools. She moved to an apartment building currently zoned for Benefield Elementary. Next fall, her child is slated to go to the new Ferguson Elementary under construction in Duluth.

“When you go to a new school, you can’t talk to people about it who have gone there before to get reviews,” Mabon said. “You won’t know if it’s a good school.”

Macquin Nnadi, on the other hand, says his daughter Kaylyn, 9, a fourth-grader, is excited about attending Ferguson next fall. The school is closer to their Duluth subdivision.

“It’s right down the street,” Nnadi said. “She can’t wait to go there.”

Ferguson is one of five new elementary schools opening in August. The others are Burnette and Roberts elementary schools in Suwanee, Jenkins Elementary in Lawrenceville and Snell Elementary in Snellville. Midway Middle in Loganville will also open in the fall of 2010.

School planning officials designed the new boundaries so most students remain in their same middle and high schools. Some students at Corley Elementary, Kanoheda Elementary, Benefield Elementary, Minor Elementary and Norton Elementary, however, may switch to new middle and high schools.

“The plan with redistricting is always to provide permanent classrooms when we are able to do that,” said Greg Stansfield, the district’s planning director. “We try to have minimal disruption where possible.’’

Gwinnett Schools, the state’s largest system, has more than 160,000 students.

Some of Gwinnett’s most overcrowded schools will be relieved in the process. Parsons Elementary, which has 1,172 students, will be relieved by Burnette. Snellville Middle will be helped by Midway Middle. Busy halls at North Gwinnett High, which has 3,367 students, will be lightened when Lanier High opens next August.

High school students will be able to have some say about their future allegiances. They can choose to stay in their current school or try out new school colors and sports teams.

Roach said a reassignment Meadowcreek High should not alarm parents. Berkmar is listed among Newsweek’s top high schools in the country, and Meadowcreek High is on the mend after failing to make AYP two times in a row. Its Class of 2009 received $2.5 million in scholarship offers.

“We are confident that as these families join Ferguson Elementary and the Meadowcreek cluster, they are going to find schools that care about their children and are focused on ensuring that their children get the best education possible,” Roach added.

Sweetwater Middle School PTA president Marquita Betts-Fields said she is sure some parents will be “upset” about changing schools, but as an educator, she understands the need to switch. She said she used to work in Kanoheda Elementary, where class space was tight.

“It’s very, very tough to teach when you don’t have enough classroom space,” she said.

New schools, new boundaries

Burnette Elementary School, Suwanee

Ferguson Elementary School, 1 Duluth

Jenkins Elementary School, Lawrenceville

Roberts Elementary School, Suwanee

Snell Elementary School, Snellville

Midway Middle School, Loganville

(Lanier High School, Buford; opens August 2010, but population already established)

Key dates for new schools

Today: Comment forms available on the Gwinnett Schools Web site.

Nov. 4: Comment form deadline.

Nov. 19: Public hearing on redistricting.

Dec. 4: Final recommendations developed for school board.

Dec. 10: School board votes on boundaries.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.