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Redistricting: Parents concerned about distance, school identity
Five spoke at BOE public meeting Tuesday
Denmark
Construction at Denmark High School on Mullinax Road was at this point in August when the Board of Education was presented with an update of various projects around the district.

It’s not just the transportation and logistics that have parents troubled with Forsyth County Schools’ redistricting draft.

“We have a feeder pattern of being at Sharon Elementary, which is obviously right next to Lambert High School,” said Cheryl Gray, a resident of the Three Chimneys Farm neighborhood in south Forsyth. “When you are next to a high school, your culture begins from the time you are 5 years old, so having the shared entrance and the teachers and administrators at our school from the time our kids were 5, our kids have thought they were going to be Longhorns.

“I would respectfully ask [reconsideration] of Three Chimney’s Farm [redistricting] to keep us at Lambert.”

On Tuesday, the Forsyth County Board of Education heard from five residents – the majority of whom live in the Three Chimneys Farm neighborhood – who expressed their concerns with the first draft of FCS’ redistricting map, which was presented to the board at their Sept. 12 work session.

The redistricting, which will affect high school students at South Forsyth, Lambert and West Forsyth, is intended to populate the county’s sixth brick-and-mortar public high school, Denmark High, which is set to open next August in southwest Forsyth, as well as help alleviate overcrowding at the other high schools.

If the first draft remains unchanged, 226 students will be moved to Denmark from West and 1,564 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.

Though the redistricting draft has been out just more than a week, Deputy Superintendent Joey Pirkle said the committee has already received feedback, including the reactions of those present at Tuesday’s public hearing, and welcomes the response.

“When we start this process, everything is on the table,” he said. “Our job is to do the best that we can that’s in the best interest of the school district and the entire school system. We base all of this on data, and most areas we’re redistricting, especially in the southern part of our county, is extremely congested.

“I want to reiterate [though;] it’s a very fluid process. It’s the very beginning of the process and we have folks that have looked at [the map] and they’re providing us with some very good feedback. That’s why we do that, because we want to hear their feedback. Once the time has ended for [residents] to provide feedback, the committee will take all of that feedback, sit down in a room with those maps and then we go through that feedback and then [decide] if there are changes we would make to the board.”

Pirkle said the committee includes himself, FCS’ transportation director, director of facilities planning, FCS’ spokeswoman and at least one high school principal, among others.

Additional stakeholders are brought in as needed, Superintendent Jeff Bearden said.

“We do have a set number of people who sit in on all [committee] meetings and then people are invited in as needed for their expertise,” he said. “For example, any time we’re talking about the possibility of a certain school being impacted by the redistricting, we always bring in that school’s principal and allow him or her to give their perspective on what the proposal will mean and how it will impact their specific community, because they’re there every day and they know their students, they know their parents and they know their community.

“This [process] is many, many days and many, many hours of going through all the data to come up to where we are today. The school board and the redistricting committee read every single [comment] and I experienced that last time around, which is great. When it’s all said and done and we come back in October with a recommendation, there may not be any changes, but it also could be, we’re going to make some recommended changes based on the feedback we received.”

Gray said she hopes the board hears the Three Chimneys Farm neighborhood.

“It is a really tough issue,” she said. “There are a lot of emotions and opinions, all of which matter.”

Residents wishing to provide online feedback have the chance to do so until Sept. 27, after which staff will present another redistricting draft to the BOE on Oct. 10.

A week later, the BOE is scheduled to approve the draft. A public forum will be held at West on Oct. 24.

The final draft will be approved in November, ahead of the Dec. 1-Jan. 19 window where out of district forms will be accepted.