By Curt Yeomans
The Clayton County Board of Education approved a redistricting plan for the southern part of the county on Monday that calls for some students to go to schools that are not the closest to where they live.
The redistricting was done to accommodate the opening of the Eddie J. White K-8 Academy this fall. Under the plan, some middle school students will be bused past Lovejoy Middle School to attend the K-8 school. Meanwhile, elementary school students who live next to the K-8 academy, on the west side of the school's property, will attend River's Edge Elementary School.
The school board voted 6-0 in favor of adopting the redistricting plan, with board members Charlton Bivins, Trinia Garrett and Wanda Smith not present for the vote.
"What this does is set the boundaries for what a student's home school will be," Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley said on Tuesday.
With the setting of the school's attendance boundary, the picture becomes clearer as to what the K-8 school will be like. The school now has a name, a mascot (the wolves), a principal (former North Clayton Middle School Principal Clarence Jackson), and attendance boundaries. Construction of the school is still under way.
Classes will begin at the Eddie J. White K-8 Academy, which is located at 11808 Panhandle Road in Hampton, in August of this year.
Under the redistricting plan, middle school students who live east of Tara Boulevard and south of McDonough Road, in the existing Lovejoy Middle School attendance zone, will attend the Eddie J. White K-8 Academy. That means in order for students living east of Tara Boulevard to get to the K-8 school, they will have to be bused past Lovejoy Middle School, which is itself in the K-8 school's attendance zone.
The redrawn elementary school boundaries now have elementary school students living west of Panhandle Road, from McDonough Road to the K-8 school, attending River's Edge Elementary School. At the western edge of the K-8 school's property, River's Edge's new attendance zone encompasses everything on both sides of Panhandle Road.
As a result, any elementary student living across the street from the K-8 School, as well as west of the school's campus, will not attend the school.
At the school board meeting on Monday, Heatley said school choice waivers will be available for students living near the K-8 school if they choose to attend the K-8 school instead of River's Edge.
School board member Pamela Adamson has been a vocal critic of the redistricting plan, arguing against making students go past a closer school to attend another. Adamson represents the southern part of Clayton County on the school board.
Adamson, however, was the school board member who made the motion for the board to approve the plan on Monday. On Tuesday, she said she still disagrees with the plan, but realized after talking with district officials that a massive, county-wide redistricting effort would be needed to straighten out the boundary lines for the K-8 school, and other schools throughout the county.
To try to sort out the boundaries for River's Edge and the K-8 school, the attendance boundaries for other elementary schools in the southern part of the county would have had to undergo changes, she said.
"I wanted my colleagues to see that even though I don't agree with this plan, I am standing behind my superintendent," Adamson said. "I thought he had done the best he could do without having to redraw the lines at other elementary schools in the area."