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Redistricting: Committee makes slight changes to draft of map
Some South students moved to Denmark

Forsyth County’s final school redistricting map will likely look slightly different from its draft version, should the county’s board of education vote to approve the new plan at its public meeting next week.

On Tuesday, Deputy Superintendent of Schools Joey Pirkle presented board members with one modification the redistricting committee decided upon after receiving residents’ feedback and looking at the school numbers.

“Given the redistricting committee’s objectives and after reviewing the feedback, the changes to the district line draft [is that] Ronald Reagan [Boulevard] south of Major’s Road is proposed to be extended to Shiloh Road and McFarland Parkway, which is within the new Denmark High School boundary. Therefore, we have selected those communities along Ronald Reagan to be redistricted.

“Their current feeder pattern is Shiloh Point [Elementary,] Piney Grove [Middle] and South Forsyth High School: Their new feeder pattern will be Shiloh Point, Piney Grove and Denmark [High School]. This moves a projected 60 students from South High to Denmark and that area includes [the subdivisions] part of the Oxford Summit complex.”

Pirkle said while many residents’ complaints centered on proximity to school – several communities have held “Walk to School” protests to demonstrate the short distances to their current schools – proximity and issues related to proximity “did not override the six primary objectives that we have listed that we were using to redistrict and achieve those things we have listed.”

The objective of the committees is to: populate Denmark High at a level that provides the school with the capacity to offer and develop programs comparable to other county high schools; reduce overcrowding at South, Lambert and West; balance projected enrollments to minimize temporary classrooms and maintain consistent feeder patterns with current high schools as much as possible while establishing a clear, consistent feeder pattern to Denmark within established feeder pattern guidelines.

“The committee spent a lot of time reviewing all the feedback that was submitted online, including reviewing multiple options other than those proposed in the draft,” Pirkle said. “Based on the feedback that was received, we looked at transportation cost, proximity [and] feeder patterns and the committee’s goal after receiving community feedback was to determine if those other options existed that would provide a better way for the school district to meet these six objectives than what was recommended in our first draft.

“After its review, the committee has concluded this draft, as amended, provides the school district as a whole the best plan to accomplish these six objectives.”

FCS Superintendent Jeff Bearden said while the committee looked at residents’ comments and concerns objectively, he understands the process is emotional for many.

“This is not an easy task; I’m sure most people recognize that,” he said. “It’s not easy because we know we have to move students from a school in which they are familiar to one which they are not familiar. I sat in on several redistricting committee meetings and for the most part, I listened and asked a few questions, and I can say they have completed their work, to date, professionally, ethically and without bias.

“Their decision was data-driven; it was not, and could not be, driven by emotion, but we all realize – the committee realizes, the board of education realizes and I realize – that the final outcome is an emotional decision for impacted families; we get that. We’re all parents too and we were all once high school students, so we understand that perspective.”

Tuesday’s draft shows 226 students will be moved to Denmark from West and 1,604 will become Denmark Danes instead of South War Eagles.

To fill in some of the gap left by the South chunk moving to Denmark, the redistricting committee also recommended moving 389 students from Lambert to South.

Each school has a capacity of 2,400 students, and should these numbers remain, the redistricting would start the 2018 school year at West with 2,405 students, Lambert with 2,585 and South with 2,436.

In addition, several elementary schools would be affected.

Silver City Elementary, which is over capacity, would lose 358 students to Chestatee Elementary, while 122 would be moved from Chestatee to Chattahoochee to even out numbers.

With these projections, Silver City would open with 1,067 students, Chestatee at 1,209 students and Chattahoochee 902.

“We are a continually rapidly growing system and with that growth comes challenges and change; it’s inevitable,” Bearden said. “With everyone working together – students, parents, business leaders and our communities, this can, and will happen quickly, and that’s in the best interest of our students. All of our high schools will serve their communities and students well, and regardless of the final outcome, we know that those that don’t want to be moved are going to be displeased.

“[But] Lambert, West and South were all once brand new high schools too and they started with reluctant students and parents but they all forged their identity and their greatness, and so will Denmark.”