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Clayton BOE to weigh de-annexing property

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Education will be asked, on Monday, to allow the school system to begin moving toward the de-annexation of 155 acres of land in Riverdale that was purchased by the district in 2006, according to Riverdale and school system officials.

The property is home to Charles R. Drew High School and is slated to eventually be home to a new facility for Riverdale Elementary School. The high school opened to freshmen and sophomores in August.

Being within the city limits of Riverdale means that fire and police protection falls under the jurisdiction of the city's fire and police departments.

At the heart of the de-annexation push is fire protection for Drew High School and any other schools built on the property. A county fire station is a just down Garden Walk Boulevard from the high school, while Riverdale's only fire station is more than two miles away, at Riverdale City Hall.

"We are asking that the city de-annex the land, and it will then go back into unincorporated Clayton County, which means the county's fire department would be responsible for providing fire protection for the school," school system Chief Operations Officer Cephus Jackson said. "With a [county] fire station right next door to the school, it's a no brainer."

The school board is scheduled to meet on Monday, at 6:30 p.m., to hold a work session at the Clayton County Public Schools Central Administration Complex, which is located at 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro.

Jackson said he will be asking the school board, on Monday, for its blessing for Clayton Public Schools Attorney Glenn Brock to begin formal work on a resolution that would authorize Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley to file an application with Riverdale officials to de-annex the property from the city.

Jackson said some informal discussions on a resolution have already taken place with Riverdale officials, but the school board needs to authorize formal discussion on the final language of the resolution. He said the resolution will likely be brought to the school board in December for a vote.

Meanwhile, the school system is already working with city officials on preparing the paperwork that needs to be filed for de-annexation to occur, Jackson said. The informal discussions have been taking place since late 2007, he said.

Riverdale City Manager Iris Jessie said the city is looking at the fire protection issue for Drew High School from the viewpoint that it makes more sense for the nearby fire station to provide protection for the school.

"In order to respond to a fire at the school, they [Riverdale firefighters] would have to go out of the city, into the unincorporated portion of the county, and then back into the city to get to the school," Jessie said.

Riverdale City Attorney Deana Johnson said if the school board approves a resolution authorizing Heatley to apply for de-annexation of the property, he would have to file that application before Riverdale's City Council could consider the measure.

If the City Council decides to move forward with de-annexation of the property, it would have to go to the Clayton County Board of Commissioners for approval, Johnson said.

Other items on the agenda for the school board's work session include discussions on legal services for the district; training for the e-Board paperless meeting system that the board is preparing to move to; a location for high school graduations, and a demographics and enrollment study.

Further discussions expected to be held during the meeting will focus on the district's monthly financial, purchasing, construction, and personnel changes reports, as well as a bid for the renovation and modification of Pointe South Middle School, a policy on school board operations, and the publishing of school board meeting minutes.