The Forsyth County Board of Education met with parents and community members on Thursday, Oct. 22, in the Forsyth Central High School auditorium for the first public forum on the 2021 redistricting plan, which will change school attendance lines for the next school year.
This first public forum was held to discuss the middle school redistricting maps that the district has drafted to help populate the new Hendricks Middle School, which will open in August. Under the proposed plan, a large group of students from Otwell, Liberty and Vickery Creek middle schools will move to the new school.
Several parents of students from Otwell brought up concerns to the board about their kids being moved out of the school, with many of them saying it would not make sense for their kids to move from Otwell to another middle school and then return to Forsyth Central for high school.
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Otwell parent Scott Knight, who spoke for other parents in the Castlebrooke subdivision off Castleberry Road near Whitlow Elementary, said that Whitlow, Otwell and Forsyth Central all have similar STEM programs that work well together.
Under the current plan, the kids in his subdivision are some of the 241 students who would be moved from Otwell to Vickery Creek.
“These are all programs that kind of naturally feed into Forsyth Central, and there is a lot of collaboration that happens between Central and Otwell,” Knight said. “With the current proposal, we feel that attending Vickery and then coming back to Central kind of breaks that continuity that’s there today.”
Many other residents echoed this sentiment, noting that Otwell and Forsyth Central are also in the same area along with their neighborhoods. While Otwell is less than a mile from Forsyth Central, parents and students would have to travel nearly seven miles from Vickery Creek to Forsyth Central.
While several residents said that they understand that Forsyth County is continually growing and changing, some said that the kids in their subdivisions seem to be impacted anytime there is a change in the school district.
Forsyth County residents even brought up concerns about the redistricting process for Hendricks Middle and East Forsyth a year ago as the district was discussing a change in attendance lines to populate Poole’s Mill Elementary, which opened at the beginning of this school year.
Otwell parent Lauren Jan, who represented other parents in Creekside subdivision, said that she and other residents simply want their kids to not have to move schools as much and be able to better plan for their futures.
“Tonight, we ask you for consistency,” Jan said.
There were also plenty of tears at the forum Thursday night as both students and parents said that they love Otwell and would hate to leave the school before heading off to Forsyth Central.
Robert Becker, who lives in the Sienna subdivision in Cumming, said that all three of his kids go to Otwell after attending Kelly Mill Elementary. Under the proposed plan, they would be moved from Otwell to the new Hendricks Middle next year. He said his kids all enjoy Otwell, its programs and the teachers.
“They thought they liked Kelly Mill until they went to Otwell,” Becker said. “They came home, and they’re beaming. They’re so happy — ‘This is fantastic. I love school. I had no idea it could be like this.’ — and they are thriving.”
The board reminded parents during the meeting that while attendance lines will move, eighth graders within the middle schools do have the option to stay at their current school. The district, however, will not be able to provide transportation to their current school if they decide to stay.
The next public forum for community members to provide feedback on the attendance lines for county high schools will be held at North Forsyth High School at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Parents and community members can also provide feedback online through Wednesday, Oct. 28, through a survey on the district’s website.
While the board did answer some of the parents' questions, they will not be addressing the feedback given by parents at either of the forums or through the survey until their next work session on Tuesday, Nov. 10.