Originally created 01/02/00

County to move pupils



In eight years, Libby Carswell's son has changed schools four times.

Yet the family has never moved from its Columbia County home off William Few Parkway. During the years, Matt, 13, has attended three elementary schools because of rezonings. And, according to a school system zoning proposal, the Riverside Middle School seventh-grader will spend eighth grade at a new middle school.

"Every time a new school is built, it's out this way, and so we get rezoned to that new school," Mrs. Carswell said. "It's an adjustment, I think, more for parents than it is for the children."

The public will get its chance to give input on options for the new Greenbrier Middle School attendance zone during meetings to be held this week. The first will be Tuesday at Riverside Middle School's gymnasium, with a second meeting planned for Thursday at Columbia Middle School's gymnasium. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m.

The $11.4 million Greenbrier Middle is scheduled to be completed Aug. 1, in time for the 2000-01 school year. Columbia County's sixth middle school will open with about 550 pupils and will alleviate overcrowding at Riverside Middle and Columbia Middle -- both of which have about 1,000 pupils. The new middle school will pull about 300 pupils from Riverside Middle and about 250 from Columbia Middle.

School Superintendent Tommy Price said two options will be presented at the meetings. Officials say they hope both will alleviate overcrowding and give the schools room to grow.

"From my perspective, it's pretty simple," Mr. Price said. "What has to drive it is the numbers. That's the key thing."

The school system used computer mapping software to help determine the best geographic alternatives to relieve overcrowding and meet federal requirements for pupil population.

Under the first option, Greenbrier Middle School's population would include:

Greenbrier Elementary pupils, who currently are zoned to attend Riverside Middle.

North Columbia Elementary pupils, who currently would attend Columbia Middle.

Evans Elementary pupils, who are zoned to attend Riverside Middle.

In the end, the new Greenbrier Middle would serve pupils who attend Greenbrier Elementary, Evans Elementary and North Columbia Elementary. Columbia Middle would serve pupils from Brookwood and Westmont elementaries, and Riverside Middle would serve Riverside and Stevens Creek elementaries.

Under the second option, pupils from a portion of North Columbia Elementary's zone east of Appling-Harlem Highway, north of Interstate 20 and south of Columbia Road would be zoned to attend Columbia Middle -- only a mile away -- instead of Greenbrier Middle.

About 60 to 65 pupils reside in that area. School officials introduced the second scenario to give parents the option to have their children attend Columbia Middle instead of a school farther away.

However, the second option would split North Columbia Elementary's population between two middle schools and would not give Columbia Middle as much relief, Mr. Price said.

While the rezoning propositions will leave the high school zones largely unchanged, some Evans and Greenbrier pupils may be switching schools:

Addresses on Gibbs Road from, and including, Gibbs Landing subdivision north to Washington Road will be rezoned from Greenbrier High to Evans High and Evans Middle.

Doe Run and Long Lane off Blanchard Road, plus Blanchard Road addresses from that intersection south to Hereford Farm Road, will be rezoned from Evans High and Evans Middle to Greenbrier High and Greenbrier Middle.

Mr. Price said rezoning those two areas will create cleaner zoning lines for that area of the county and should affect only a small number of pupils. However, Mr. Price said he plans to recommend that high school students in those two areas be allowed to remain at their current high school if they choose.

Mrs. Carswell said she's not as bothered by the rezoning as she is concerned about the new middle school's construction and whether it will be finished on time.

"We're tired of going to schools that are not finished when we get there," she said. "If they're going to build a new school and make the children go to different schools, then let if be finished when they get there."

ReachPeggy Ussery at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 112, or ussery@augustachronicle.com.