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Decision nears on school district lines
Official: 'We can't please everyone'
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County's school board is reviewing the last of more than 460 public comments on the most recent draft of redistricting maps.

The window for parent input on the school system's Web site closed Oct. 3, leaving the five board members with less than a week to process the feedback before Thursday's work session.

"We've looked at every single idea and all the different plans and I think we've done the best we can with the data we've had," said Nancy Roche, board chairwoman.

"There are still going to be some parents very upset. I'm sure there will be. I know we can't please everyone. It's just not possible. Unfortunately, that's the way it is with redistricting."

The board can make changes during Thursday's session, but will not vote on the final redistricting map until its Oct. 16 meeting.

The school system is currently redistricting for the 2009-10 school year, when it plans to open five new schools, including one middle, one high and three elementary schools.

Roche has served on the board during previous changes in school attendance lines and went through the process with her own children.

"I had a lot of the same issues back then," she said. "I had a sixth-grader in one middle school and an eighth-grader in another middle school. I've personally been through it a lot and it's really hard.

"I think the biggest thing is the parents have to make it a positive experience. This is what has to happen, it's what is best for the community as a whole. They have to be positive about it and not make it even harder on their families."

Roche said there seem to be three "hot spots" with parents:

* Redistricting some Cumming Elementary students to Mashburn Elementary

* Moving children from the Barrett Downs area to Otwell Middle and Forsyth Central High instead of Vickery Middle and West Forsyth High

* Sending rising ninth-graders from the Chattahoochee River Club neighborhood to South Forsyth High instead of the new Lambert High

In each scenario, some students will be split from neighbors and friends.

Such a transition can be difficult for students, Roche acknowledged. But the solution for the school district will be the option that best uses school dollars, maximizes classroom space and minimizes the number of students in portable classrooms.

There is no appeal process, said Jennifer Caracciolo, a school system spokeswoman.

Students seeking to transfer to a different school can follow the out-of-district procedure, though switching schools is reserved for academic reasons or the children of employees.

Caracciolo said being closer to friends or at a school more convenient for a parent's work schedule are not acceptable reasons to switch.

Parents of children involved in a program not offered at their future school can appeal for them to stay put, but they must provide their own transportation.

Roche said she has looked at the comments from parents on the proposed redistricting and has been "writing down all the main concerns."

"We don't talk about it until we get together as a board," she said. "And then we've got to look at all the numbers again and then we've got to decide what's right."