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Process to redraw school attendance zones continues in Forsyth County
Elementary school map

FORSYTH COUNTY — The second of a likely three revisions to the proposed new school attendance zones was approved Thursday night, but not before the Forsyth County Board of Education heard concerns from some of the neighborhoods affected and made some changes.

The current version of the map is available online for public viewing and comment through Oct. 26.

Ten schools look to be impacted by the new redrawn lines, which will be approved later this fall to relieve overcrowding at existing campuses and populate Brandywine Elementary and DeSana Middle. Both are scheduled to open for the 2016-17 school year.

Parents representing 12 subdivisions in south Forsyth spoke Thursday against the draft as originally presented. Most were concerned with the middle school redistricting.

Earlier in the week, Whitney Ferrer, a resident of the Somerset subdivision, shared why she and many other parents have organized against the proposal.

“Traditionally, we’ve been in south Forsyth. That’s our area,” she said. “We were just stunned [when the first map came out]. One of the reasons why this movement is there for everyone in our neighborhood is because we didn’t see it coming.”

Ferrer’s oldest son is in 10thgrade at South Forsyth High and her second son is in eighth grade at Piney Grove Middle, so neither will be impacted by this redistricting. However, her youngest son will be starting sixth grade next year.

He currently attends Brookwood Elementary after being redistricted two years ago from Big Creek as part of an effort to relieve crowding at Midway.

“When Piney Grove opened in 2007, it made sense for our area to move because it was only another half-mile away,” Ferrer said.

Both DeSana and Brandywine will be located between McFarland Parkway, Union Hill Road and Hwy. 9 in southwest Forsyth.

The second redistricting map draft, motioned in sections by District 2 board member Kristin Morrissey and District 5’s Nancy Roche, differs from the first by retaining 10 of the 12 subdivisions in the Piney Grove district.

Those include Brookwood Lakes, Caney Estates, Chatworth, Faircroft, Glenmoor, Longpoint, Saddlebrook Glen, Somerset, Stonecrest and Windrose.

Brookwood Estates and Windhaven were not included in the amendment and, according to this draft, will be rezoned to DeSana.

To offset the lack of those students populating the new middle school, another facet of the amendment to the draft indicated the three Shiloh Farms subdivisions — Belmont, Crofton and Ridgefield — as well as East Ridge at Stoney Point, Stoneview Ridge at Stoney Point and Summit at Shiloh will be rezoned from Piney Grove to DeSana.

This would set DeSana to open with 807 students, or at 78 percent capacity, and Piney Grove to begin the year with 890 students, or 86 percent capacity.

Ferrer said parents did not think the transportation patterns made sense or were safe to have school buses travel on McGinnis Ferry and McFarland roads west across Ga. 400 to get to DeSana.

According to a memo sent to the school board and superintendent, South Forsyth Middle is about 2.8 miles away from the neighborhoods, Piney Grove is 4.5 and DeSana is 5.2.

Morrissey said many middle school students have extracurricular activities at least three times a week, adding to traffic and complicating parents’ routes if they have to drop off, for example, a student at both Brookwood Elementary and DeSana Middle.

Another concern was the future growth of the south and southwest Forsyth area.

“By far, the largest area of growth is expected to occur along the McFarland and Mullinax corridors, in the Brandywine, DeSana and Denmark [High School] districts,” Ferrer wrote in the memo.

“There is no reason to move our approximately 150 students out of Piney into a school that will be over capacity shortly due to the massive construction going on (Roca Point alone will have 696 units).”

A response to this concern involved required numbers for full funding at a middle school, which seemed to be fixed by the changes to the second draft.

“It’s important that we open a middle school with more than 750 students because if we open with less, it makes it hard to staff a middle school model with teaming, and it limits the variety and offerings,” said Joey Pirkle, deputy superintendent of schools.

The only change made to the elementary school redistricting map this go-around was motioned by District 4’s Darla Light to retain at Haw Creek Elementary the 21 students who live in Cascade Creek instead of moving them to Mashburn.

Amendments and the overall draft were approved in 5-0 votes.

Information on redistricting will be available online through Oct. 26, where parents and students can view the numbers and complete a survey.

Two public forums will be held this week at West Forsyth High for additional feedback — 6 p.m. Tuesday for elementary schools and at the same time Thursday for middle schools.

Once the redistricting map gets final approval in November, affected households will receive a formal letter in the mail.

There is no intent to adjust 2016-17 high school lines, as those will be redrawn in 2017 for the opening of Denmark High in 2018.

Rising fifth- and eighth-grade students will have the option to complete an out-of-district request in December to remain at their current schools for their last year, though parents will have to provide transportation. Siblings of those students can apply to remain at that school, too, but only for a year.

The draft can be found online at forsyth.k12.ga.us.