By PASHONIA ROBINSON
The Cobb County School District is halfway through rezoning and remodeling plans for 18 elementary schools in south Cobb.
The plans, which were approved by the Georgia Legislature, include new facilities for Mableton and Clarkdale Elementary Schools, a new Smyrna elementary school, an eight-classroom addition to Nickajack Elementary, reorganization of Austell Primary and Intermediate, relocation of Fitzhugh Lee Center of H.A.V.E.N. Academy to the current Brown Elementary School building, and the rezoning of 11 additional elementary schools.
Skyview Elementary will close and all students will be rezoned to Mableton Elementary. The merger increased Mableton’s student enrollment to 904 students. Brown Elementary will also close and students will be re-zoned to the new Smyrna elementary school. The rezoning of Belmont Hills, Green Acres, Norton Park, Argyle, King Springs, Milford and LaBelle Elementary Schools will also contribute to the new Smyrna student enrollment of an estimated 919 students.
Parents, teachers, and education advocates have flooded the school district’s website with voices of concern. Joy Egerton, the mother of a third grader at Skyview Elementary, is very displeased with the approval.
“I loved Skyview because it was a small, community-oriented school. Now, with the combining of schools, class sizes have increased from 17 students to 28 students,” said Egerton. “How can teachers possibly ensure that students will continue to receive the individual attention they were receiving (and are used to receiving) in the smaller class setting?”
The Cobb County School District department of planning is responsible for student population growth management. The outcome of all changes within the district is supported by the department’s demographic research and development of student population projections. When necessary, the department plays a significant role in school attendance zone redistricting initiatives.
Dennis Campbell, the director of planning for the district, said the school board is making these changes due to the economy and the loss of tax revenue. However, as class sizes continue to grow, more teachers are losing their jobs.
“The fact that parents have concerns regarding these changes is by no means being overlooked,” said Campbell.
State funding forced the district to cut nearly 1,400 teachers since 2008. In these four years the number of teachers has decreased from 8,477 to 7,039.
“It seems as if the board is trying to compensate for laying off too many teachers by using SPLOST money to build these mega-schools and doubling class sizes,” said Demetria Coleman, CEO of The Giving Back Foundation and education activist. “I do not understand how they could fathom the benefit of having elementary schools with student enrollments of almost 1,000 children. There are high schools that do not have a population as large.”
Despite disapproval from parents, teachers and community activists, Campbell insists the changes are beneficial.
“The reorganization of Austell Primary and Austell Intermediate alone will save the district more than $100,000 in transportation costs each school year,” said Campbell.
Phase one of rezoning was implemented August 2012. It included changes at Austell Primary, Austell Intermediate, Birney, Bryant, Clarkdale, Clay, Hollydale, Mableton, Milford and Skyview. Phase two of rezoning will be implemented August 2013. It includes changes at Argyle, Belmont Hills, Brown, Green Acres, King Springs, LaBelle, Milford, Nickajack, the relocation of Fitzhugh Lee Center of H.A.V.E.N. Academy, and the opening of the new Smyrna.