April 18, 2013

Dalton school officials considering a Roan rezone

By Christopher Smith

— Dalton Public Schools have two “overcrowded” schools and one “very small school,”  Deputy Superintendent Don Amonett said.

That’s why school officials are looking at rezoning the easternmost part of their district to transfer 92 students — 69 students from Blue Ridge Elementary School and 23 students from Park Creek School — to Roan Elementary School on Roan Street.

Before they make a final decision on the rezoning, school officials are planning to hold two public meetings on Tuesday, April 23, at noon and 5 p.m. to hear input from parents and the community.

“The primary reason we’re doing this is about the utilization of space,” said Amonett, who is overseeing the possible change. “This will help with overcrowding by putting more students in Roan where we have space.”

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

State department officials limit class sizes to 35 students for every teacher without a waiver, but do not limit the size of schools as long as facility and staff needs are met.

“There’s also an added benefit of safety,” Amonett said. “Right now students going to Blue Ridge are in what we call the Parent Responsibility Zone. If students live within a mile of the school we don’t transport them. So a lot of children walk to Blue Ridge.

“To get to the school you have to cross Martin Luther King Jr. (Boulevard). That’s a four-lane road that students have to cross. The rezone will make it safer if students continue to walk to school. They can walk down streets with less traffic like Red Clay Avenue to Roan School without crossing a major road.”

The only communication with parents has been through formal letters sent out Wednesday, Amonett said, adding that officials haven’t received any input from parents or the public on the rezoning.

“We hope to have discussion at the meetings,” he said.

School board officials make the final decision on rezoning. Amonett got the green light to talk to parents from chairman Danny Crutchfield and board members Mark Orr and Rick Fromm at the Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Board members Steve Williams and Tulley Johnson did not attend.

Board members are expected to make a decision after they receive public input, Amonett said. The next board meeting is May 13 at 6:30 p.m.

If approved the rezoning would begin in the fall, said Pat Holloway, director of communications for the school system.

“After next year Park Creek might be impacted by transportation,” she said. “We don’t know specifics just yet. Most kids in that area walk to school.”