Officials criticize student population counts

JONESBORO – Members of the Clayton County Board of Education hashed out the beginnings of plans to redistribute student populations.

SPLOST coordinator John Holloway provided the board with an update Monday during its work session on the district’s capacity status, based on its Oct. 1, 2013, full-time enrollment count.

Holloway reported that the district’s elementary school enrollment exceeds classroom capacity by 204 pupils. Middle school enrollment is under capacity by 1,567 and high school enrollment is below by 432.

The report confounded some members of the panel, board members Mary Baker and Jessie Goree who challenged the results.

Baker objected to the report’s calculation of Jonesboro High being under capacity by 406 students, pointing to the school’s crowded hallways and classrooms.

Goree connected the enrollment to the district’s five-year facilities plan, a construction priority list to be submitted to the state.

The list is topped by schools that district officials believe would need to be newly-constructed or renovated first, whereas newer schools fall lower on the list.

Seventh on the list is the construction of a 14th elementary school and 23rd on that list is a new middle school, which would be the district’s eighth middle school.

“You’re talking about adding another middle school and all but three are under-capacity,” said Goree, referencing the classroom capacity report.

The middle schools are 1,567 students under-capacity, according to the report. Babb, Forest Park and Rex Mill middle schools are over capacity by 56, 63 and eight students respectively.

The report reveals four of the district’s nine high schools are under-capacity including Drew, Jonesboro, Mundy’s Mill and North Clayton high schools. Drew is 295 student under-capacity, Jonesboro is 406 under, Mundy’s Mill is below 132 and North Clayton is down 479.

Goree said the broad disparity in enrollments concerns her about the level of resources one school receives versus another, particularly in northern Clayton County where Drew and North Clayton high schools are grossly under-capacity.

“When do you ever plan on doing re-redistricting?” said Goree, repeating her annual query about the differences in student populations.

Chairwoman Dr. Pam Adamson, too, said she was concerned with equity in resources provided to schools. She raised questions about the facilities plan priority list.

She said she was concerned that Riverdale High had a sub-par gymnasium that she said is as old as the school itself but the priority list only identifies adding an auxiliary gym to campus and after the district builds a new elementary school.

“One of the worst nights of my life is when we had graduation in that gymnasium,” said Adamson. “It was horrible.”

Adamson said she believes there should be a newly-constructed full gym in the district’s plans.

Monday’s work session also included a first reading of amendments to its Policy Series J, pertaining to students. The changes include a nondiscrimination statement and amendments to enrollment policies in home study, homeless youth, individualized education program plans, transfer students and student records.

The changes address the board’s rules in keeping with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and details regulating possession of a weapon on school grounds, at a school function or en route to or from a school activity.

The policy proposals also contain a section for concussion management, based upon a new state law designed to mitigate the ill-effects of concussion in young athletes.

Members are also reviewing this month’s purchasing, financial and SPLOST reports for the next regular meeting Tuesday, April 1, at 6 p.m.