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Parents want ability to choose

By Greg Gelpi

Parents want a choice.

Parents filled the Clayton County schools boardroom Monday night to voice their concerns regarding proposed rezoning, which could move 1,873 students to new schools.

"I don't think that by dropping names into a computer you are considering what is best for the individual," Angela Wood said at the meeting.

Wood, who has a child at Brown Elementary School, said she lives a mile from Brown and doesn't want to drive farther to a new school. With Fayette County so close, she said she could just move out of the county.

Schools are a big consideration when parents move, said CaSaundra Thomas, a real estate agent and parent.

"Our concern is that we would like to reserve the right to still choose," Thomas said.

The proposed changes brought one parent to tears.

"It was breaking my heart when I got this letter Friday," said Tammi Tucker, a River's Edge Elementary School parent. "It's almost like I go to that school, not just my kids."

Tucker explained that she has invested time and energy into River's Edge.

The school system is shifting students from school to school to make way for the opening of three new schools in the fall.

The shifts will fill new schools, while easing strain on existing overcrowded schools.

"The tax money that we pay just can't keep pace," Assistant Superintendent for Auxiliary Services Ronnie Blake said. "We're growing so rapidly in some areas we just can't keep up."

Blake said there isn't land to build schools in the areas that most need new schools.

Some parents, though, wondered why there is room for new housing developments, but not room to build more schools.

"I just have one question," Hope Johnson said. "Why do we have all this room for new subdivisions, but no room for the schools?"

Blake said that he has spent months developing the rezoning and working through drafts of the proposals. He has taken individual students into consideration, but asked parents to look at the "whole picture."

Parents can address "special" needs issues to the school system's student services department, he said. That department can opt students out of moving in special cases.

A new Jonesboro Middle School, Kemp Primary and Elementary School No. 9 open in the fall, leading to the need for rezoning.

Kemp Primary, which will have kindergarten through second grades, and Kemp Elementary will take 353 students from River's Edge Elementary, 11 students from Suder Elementary and 192 from Brown Elementary.

River's Edge will pull 257 students from Kemp and three students from Hawthorne Elementary.

Elementary No. 9 will receive 222 students from McGarrah Elementary, 486 students from East Clayton Elementary and 77 students from Morrow Elementary.

Jonesboro Middle will move from 137 Spring St. to behind Arnold Elementary School. The new school will pull 233 students from Morrow Middle School and 39 students from Roberts Middle School.

A hearing to discuss the rezoning of Jonesboro Middle will be held at 6 tonight at the school board boardroom. Monday's meetings discussed rezoning for Kemp Primary and Elementary School No. 9.

Final proposals will be brought to the Clayton County Board of Education for a decision at its regular meeting on May 3.