April 24, 2013

Roan rezone tied to state funding

Board approval expected on May 13

By Christopher Smith
christophersmith@daltoncitizen.com

— There are several reasons to rezone the area around Roan Elementary School, said Dalton Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Don Amonett, but one of the biggest is state funding.

Amonett spoke with several parents and students who could be impacted by the possible rezone during two public meetings at Roan Tuesday afternoon.

School officials are looking at rezoning the eastern part of the district to transfer 92 students — 69 from Blue Ridge Elementary School and 23 students from Park Creek School — to Roan at the start of the next school year.

“Schools are funded in Georgia based on attendance,” Amonett said. “If you have a certain amount of attendance you get more QBE (Quality Basic Education) funding to pay for staff like the principals, the media specialists. Things like that.”

QBE is a funding formula used by state officials to appraise the operating cost of each school district based in large part on the size of each school’s student body, among other factors. State officials haven’t been able to fully fund QBE for several years because of cuts to the state budget and provide even less funding for elementary schools below a 450-student threshold.

Roan currently has 396 students enrolled, Park Creek has 646 and Blue Ridge has 652, according to the state Department of Education website. After the rezone, school officials expect Roan to have 488 students, Park Creek to have 623 and Blue Ridge to have 583.

State education department officials limit class size to 35 students per teacher without an exemption waiver, but don’t directly mandate the minimum size of student bodies as long as facility and staff needs are met.

“With funding, we keep those positions that aren’t being funded by the state, but the difference is paid by local tax dollars,” Amonett said. “Taxes I pay, taxes you pay. So by rezoning we’re maximizing state funding and local tax dollars. So we should get maximum funding from the state. Roan is below the number we need so we want to do some balancing with our students. And Park Creek and Blue Ridge won’t be as overcrowded.”

Amonett told several parents they shouldn’t expect any difference in their children’s education if they move to another school.

“There isn’t a significant difference between the schools,” he said. “All elementary schools start and end at the same time. The basic programs, breakfast and lunch — that’s all the same thing. The only difference is that Roan does not have an after school program. But if you want your kid to continue their after school program, a bus from Roan will take them to Blue Ridge. So that works out.”

Cindy Parrott, principal of Roan, agrees.

“I’ve been at Roan School for 20 years,” she said. “We have a great family just like the other schools. We want parents and students to know we can’t wait to have them into our family. We look forward to having the opportunity to have their children here.”

School board members are expected to approve the rezone at their Monday, May 13, meeting at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. Every parent at Amonett’s two meetings — about 15 total — said they are OK with the change.

Asked if there would be any impact on bus routes, Amonett said the portion of Park Creek’s zone that would go to Roan would enter into a “parent responsibility zone.”

“When the economy started struggling state officials made cuts to transportation funding,” he said. “So we developed the parent responsibility zone. Basically that’s where we do not offer bus transportation because the student lives close enough to a school.”

The streets that would no longer get bus service include portions of Red Clay Avenue, Underwood Circle and Fields Avenue.

“I’ve sent out letters to every parent in the area that will be impacted by the rezone,” Amonett said. “Three letters were returned because the houses were vacant and one was returned because we didn’t include the apartment number. I hand delivered (the latter) ... there’s been no concern from parents. Everyone seems to be OK with the change.”