Gifted program to change

The Columbia County Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved changes to the system's gifted program that administrators say will improve the quality of instruction and could increase the number of pupils enrolled.

The changes call for halving the number of pupils bused to the Horizons Gifted Program, a central instructional center at Westmont Elementary School. Four schools will keep their gifted pupils for in-house instruction, while others will bus their pupils to a "mini-center," officials said.

Keeping more pupils at or near their home school should increase the number of gifted pupils, because many parents declined because of concerns about travel, said Associate Superintendent for Student Learning Lauren Williams. The proposal also calls for strengthening the gifted curriculum, she said.

Currently one day a week, gifted pupils are bused from 15 elementary schools to Horizons. Under the revised plan, the four Columbia County elementary schools with the greatest number of gifted pupils - Stevens Creek, Lewiston, River Ridge and Greenbrier - would receive their own gifted teachers. The gifted pupils from three other elementary schools - Grovetown, a future second elementary in Grovetown and North Harlem - would pool their pupils to form a "mini-center" at Euchee Creek Elementary, Dr. Williams said.

The remaining nine elementary schools would still send their gifted pupils to Horizons.

The plan calls for hiring one additional gifted teacher. Dr. Williams said the system will see some cost savings from reduced travel expenses, but schools such as Stevens Creek might need an additional portable classroom.

In other business, the board approved hiring four new principals: Lisa Reeder at South Columbia Elementary; Dr. Sarah Walls at the new unnamed elementary school in Grovetown; Sharon Carson at Greenbrier Middle; and Carla Shelton at Harlem Middle.

Reach J. Scott Trubey at 706-868-1222, ext. 109, or jeffery.trubey@augustachronicle.com.