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Clayton Schools unveils panhandle redistricting proposal

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Some middle school students in southern Clayton County may have to ride a school bus past Lovejoy Middle School to attend the new Eddie J. White K-8 Academy next fall, according to a preliminary redistricting map unveiled by school officials Monday night.

Clayton County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Cephus Jackson told members of the Clayton County Board of Education that the busing of middle school students from the area east of Tara Boulevard, down Panhandle Road, past Lovejoy Middle School to the new kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school, would be necessary to balance out enrollment at both schools.

Under the proposed plan, 599 of the 1,106 students currently living in Lovejoy Middle School's attendance zone would remain at that school. The other 507 students, including anyone living east of Tara Boulevard, would go to the K-8 school. Lovejoy Middle School is located at the intersection of Panhandle Road and Lovejoy Road, which is west of Tara Boulevard. The new school is even farther west on Panhandle Road.

"The land in the panhandle is sparsely populated," Jackson said. "We couldn't be consistent with our enrollments if we didn't draw the lines this way. If we did not do this, we would end up with 770 students at one school (Lovejoy), and 307 students at the other school (the K-8 school)."

School system officials will hold public-input meetings on the proposed attendance boundaries on Dec. 1, at River's Edge Elementary School, which is located at 205 North Bridge Road, Fayetteville, and on Dec. 3, at Lovejoy Middle School, which is located at 1588 Lovejoy Road, Lovejoy. Both meetings will begin at 6 p.m.

The new school will also draw students from River's Edge Elementary School, although the proposed redistricting map for elementary-age children calls for a dividing line that keeps everything west of Panhandle Road in the attendance zone for River's Edge.

One school board member expressed displeasure with the proposed middle school boundary changes. Board member Pamela Adamson, who represents southern Clayton County, said she did not like the idea of students being bused past a closer school to attend another one. She said it would be hard to explain to area residents why the attendance zones would be drawn that way.

"That [plan] doesn't make sense," Adamson said. "They said the panhandle is sparsely populated, but that area east of Tara Boulevard is sparsely populated as well."

Jackson said the school system will not bring its final draft of the redistricting plan to the school board for approval until January 2010.

The Eddie J. White K-8 Academy, which is located at 11808 Panhandle Road, is currently under construction, with a targeted opening date of August 2010, Jackson said. On Nov. 2, the school board approved the appointment of North Clayton Middle School Principal Clarence Jackson (no relation to Cephus Jackson) to be the new school's first principal.