WEST FORSYTH — The cafeteria at West Forsyth High School was packed with a change in colors Thursday night — neon green and pink.
Hundreds of parents, many with their children, came to the second of two public forums held by the Forsyth County Board of Education on a contentious redistricting process in southwest Forsyth.
It’s a process that has left neighborhoods fighting to remain out of the redrawn zones for a new middle school and at their familiar campus.
Central arguments suggest hardships on students being asked to move to a school out of their community to attend one — DeSana Middle — that is farther away than their current campus — Piney Grove or Vickery Creek — with kids they have not grown up with.
“You can build a building, but you cannot build a school. We are being kicked out of the school we built,” said Christopher Naffky, who lives at The Ridge at Stoney Point.
Many of the families who are subject to rezoning based on the second of three drafts published by the school board have kids who opened Piney Grove in 2007.
Those are the families who were also redistricted two years ago to help alleviate crowding for Midway Elementary.
Parents brought up the fact that some of their children may be subjected to attending four schools in four years.
If they attended Midway as a fourth-grader and were redistricted to Big Creek, Shiloh Point or Vickery Creek for fifth grade, they would have moved on to middle school — Piney Grove or Vickery Creek — for sixth grade before being asked to populate DeSana as seventh-graders when it opens next fall.
“We were finally back together at Piney Grove after being separated two years ago [from Shiloh Point to Big Creek],” said Haley Castano, a student who would be moving to DeSana.
At the same time, the opening of Brandywine Elementary has also caused some concern from largely the same neighborhoods. But the middle school map has stirred the most dissension.
Both schools are under construction between McFarland Parkway, Union Hill Road and Hwy. 9 in southwest Forsyth.
Subdivisions represented at Thursday’s public forum included: Braemar, Calamar, East Ridge at Stoney Point, Hampton Forest, MainstoneWallace Run, Oakmont, The Ridge at Stoney Point, Shiloh Creek, Shiloh Farms, Stoneview on Stoney Point, Summit at Shiloh and Windhaven.
Most of those neighborhoods were not included in the DeSana population as of the first redistricting draft.
The second draft, which was approved and posted for public comment last week, moved them into the new zones while retaining a similarly sized group of neighboring subdivisions at Piney Grove.
“Why us and not them?” Jane McClain of Shiloh Farms asked. “We’re the same as the Caney Old Alpharetta subdivisions. We both should be staying in Piney.”
Parents did, in fact, raise the same arguments as the groups who successfully escaped the redrawn lines of the second draft. They cited longer distances for buses and parents to travel, especially parents who are taking kids to both elementary and middle schools.
“After deliberating a second time on the facts alone, [the redistricting committee] went with draft one,” Kelan Dave of Stoneview on Stoney Point said.
But someone has to go.
At the Oct. 15 board meeting, Deputy Superintendent of Schools Joey Pirkle said it was important to open a middle school with more than 750 students to receive full funding and staffing.
If draft No. 2 is adopted — there is still one more possible revision coming — in November, DeSana would open with 807 students, or at 78 percent capacity. Piney Grove would begin the year with 890 students, or 86 percent capacity.
Nearly every parent who spoke noted that “projections show” DeSana will be at 100 percent capacity in two or three years due to 4,500 homes that scheduled to be sold or moved into over the next year or two.
“We’re lining ourselves up to be rezoned again in a few years,” said Shankar Ramanadhan, a resident at Summit at Shiloh.
School district officials, however, said the maps they created account for future growth.
“We’re not going to make everyone in this room happy,” said Darla Light, the District 4 representative and board chairwoman. “But if you do go to DeSana, it will be a fabulous school, too. All of our schools are.
“And at the end of the day, if you support your child, it will be a positive experience.”
Nancy Roche, District 5 board member, said she has gone through four of the five high school redistricting processes and six of the nine for middle schools during her tenure.
While there is no way to make every neighborhood happy with the change, she said the board has the best interests of the children at heart.
“Try to make it a positive experience for your kids,” she said. “Someone in this room will have to move. And if you make it a negative, it will be a negative for your kid.”
The current version of the map is available online for public viewing and comment through Monday.