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Wednesday July 18th, 2018 2:23PM

New members of Gainesville School Board installed, talk attendance zones

By Alyson Shields Reporter

The Gainesville City School Board welcomed two new board members to their table at their Wednesday meeting before they discussed attendance zoning and facility improvements.

Heather Ramsey and Andy Stewart were sworn in, separately, by Judge Andrew Fuller. They fill the seats left vacant by Delores Diaz and Brett Mercer.

Ramsey, along with her husband Andy and daughter Anna Cate, took the first oath with Judge Fuller. Anna Cate attends Gainesville Middle School and her three younger siblings, Gracie, Jack and Jim, are students at Centennial Arts Academy. 

Stewart was joined by his wife, Ellen, and parents, Helen and Doug Stewart. He also has two daughters, Elizabeth, a ninth grader at the high school, and Emily, a fifth grader at Centennial. Ellen Stewart works as a parapro at Centennial. Stewart's father, Doug, is also known in the community as a BAR member and Judge Fuller said Doug Stewart had trained all the current judges in Hall County.

"There's going to be a steep learning curve, but I'm excited to dive in to it," said Stewart after the meeting. "Same, I'm excited and looking forward to helping out," Ramsey. They both said they hoped to make a positive impact on the school system and wanted address the high school and middle school's size issues.

Both swore to Judge Fuller they would uphold the standards involved in their new positions before they took their seats at the table in the front of the room.

The board immediately signed their Code of Ethics, something they do annually. Then, they turned to Superintendent Jeremy Williams and he presented an update on attendance zones.

"Right now, we have schools that are using modular units that we're squeezing kids in to and other schools have space. So our attempt is get it a little more balanced," said Williams. "We still want to offer school choice, but with the attendance zones we want to cluster it to where kids have a choice within certain schools instead of a city-wide choice, because that's 30 additional minutes we're talking about a child being on a bus."

The zoning changes would unfold over several years, once things are finalized. A recommendation for the zoning will tentatively be ready at the February meeting.

And, Williams said an upcoming goal to put Pre-K back in every elementary school; Williams said they expect to implement that by next year.

Also at the meeting, the board approved some new hires, discussed and approved bids for field lighting at the middle school ($205,000 bid to Cory Clark Electric LLC in Clermont) and softball field renovations at the high school ($310,165 bid to Precision Turf in Buford) and presented alumnus Judge Fuller with a brick from the old Enota Elementary School.

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