The first of two public forums regarding Cobb’s redistricting proposal was held last night at Pebblebrook High School for the 13 schools in Phase 1 of the recommendation. Sky View, located off of Dunn Road in Mableton and home to approximately 420 students, is one of three schools the district is recommending to close.
The district also proposes the closure of Brown and Fitzhugh Lee H.A.V.E.N. elementary schools and the reorganization of Austell Primary and Intermediate schools into traditional kindergarten through fifth-grade schools.
Phase 1 schools affected by the redistricting include Austell Primary and Intermediate, Birney, Bryan, Clarkdale, Clay, Hollydale, Mableton, Milford, Riverside Primary and Intermediate, Russell, Sanders and Sky View elementary schools.
Students from Sky View would be moved to Mableton Elementary School and the school would be closed effective August 2012.
Erin Stack, president of the Sky View school counsel, said, “I understand that this is a difficult topic … However, you’re mapping does not give my school a chance or a choice in this matter. I understand that newer schools provide newer opportunities but bigger isn’t always better.”
Stack pointed out that the Mableton school would double the student population that Sky View students now have and that their school offers more than just education for young people. It has Mommy and Me classes for parents, food assistance programs, English classes and programs in place for students to attend universities.
“This is something that can’t happen in a larger school. You can’t do for 900 (students) what you can do for 400,” she said. “I really would ask that you attend our school, walk through our building, talk to our parents, talk to our students. See how much they love the sense of family and community that they get in a small school.”
Community activist and Sky View parent Richard Pellegrino said, “I want to say that I’ve experienced every type of school with my large family … hands down, Sky View Elementary is the best school that my children have ever attended.”
He added that he was shocked that the criteria for school closure does not include the character and quality of the school.
“I propose that we study Sky View rather than close it and make it a model … for education in this district and beyond,” he said.
Antonio Eubanks, a Sky View parent and a member of the school council, not only spoke during public comments but has an online petition posted in favor of keeping the school open.
“It is a small school but that’s the way we like it. It’s a true community school. There is no data that shows that a bigger school is better than a small school,” Eubanks said.
He also asked the board if the public forum was “true” or just a way to appease the public while they wait to close the school.
A handful of former and current Sky View students also spoke, pleading for the school to remain open. A few even got upset and were nearly brought to tears.
Sky View teacher Anne Pattison addressed board members and told them that she had been driving 44 miles every day for the last 14 years to teach at Sky View.
“Sky View has heart. If we have a family who can’t pay their bills, we help them,” she said. “I’m afraid that your minds are made up but there are ways to redistrict without closing us.”
During the forum, SPLOST administrator Doug Shepard gave a slide presentation detailing the redistricting process. He began by saying that the public forum and release of the redistricting maps were part of Round 2 of 4 in the process.
In Round 3, scheduled for November and December, the district will present a single-drafted plan and again collect input from the public; and in Round 4, scheduled for January and February, the school board will approve each phase and hold school closure hearings one last time.
Shepard provided information on how to read the redistricting maps, support data for alternatives A and B and criteria for feeder patterns, attendance zones and school closures.
“(School closures are) not something we take lightly,” Shepard said. “What we’re seeking to do is look for staffing efficiency and energy efficiency. When we do that, we can have efficient operations that in turn direct more dollars to the general fund, which is where we pay teachers from.
“Our goal is to maintain teachers in the classroom. You’re the front line on our education mission and the teachers are the ones that we’re looking to preserve when we’re looking at cost-cutting.”
Shepard also said that a highlight of Phase 1 was that Mabelton would be absorbing 100 percent of Sky View students.
“We thought that it was important that if we recommended closure of this school, we keep this community together,” he said.
Students currently attending any school in the Phase 1 recommendation, other than Sky View, can stay at the school until he/she finishes but transportation will not be provided. Siblings may also be allowed to attend the school until the older sibling leaves.
Shepard also provided information on how to give public comments in regards to the proposals.
Public comments can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted on the Cobb County School District website at www.cobbk12.org. Click on “2011 Redistricting” for additional information to view maps.
“The reason we are here is because we want to hear from you. This is the start of a conversation,” Shepard concluded.
A public forum for Phase 2 schools will be held Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Campbell High School, 5265 Ward St. in Smyrna.
Schools in Phase 2 include Argyle, Belmont Hills, Brown, Green Acres, Harmony Leland, King Springs, LaBelle, New Smyrna, Milford, Nickajack, Norton Park and Teasley elementary schools. These schools would be affected by the redistricting beginning August 2013.