GAINESVILLE – The first of two scheduled informational meetings regarding the proposed attendance zones for students in the Gainesville City School System drew 150 curious, concerned and confused parents and students to Gainesville Exploration Academy Thursday afternoon.
Several Gainesville City School officials could be heard commenting after the meeting that the turnout was larger than expected.
“I’m very proud of the turnout we had,” Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Williams said. “A lot of the parents were able to get the information they needed.”
Three large maps were on display along one side of the room illustrating the current and proposed attendance zones; an informational handout with talking points was given to attendees; and Dr. Williams presentation was translated into Spanish for the benefit to those more proficient in that language.
“The reason we are here is because Gainesville city has grown by 3,000-students in the last ten years,” Williams began.
Williams said that while growth is welcome, the downside is that it has not happened proportionately across the city, causing some schools to become crowded while empty desks populate classrooms in other schools.
Under current school assignment maps, “GEA (Gainesville Exploration Academy) is at the highest at 885 (students), meanwhile Fair Street is zoned at 273 (students). That’s a very wide gap and the purpose of changing the attendance zones is to get it a little more balanced.”
Among changes recommended for the 2018-2019 school year:
Pre-K will be offered at each elementary school.“Right now we have 8 classes of Pre-K at New Holland and one, about to be two, at Mundy Mill,” Williams said. “We will be transitioning all Pre-Ks back to the elementary schools.”
Attendance zone adjustments will be as follows: (not an exhaustive list)
- Swan Drive, Athens Street and south, and Browns Bridge Road and south to Swan Drive will be pulled into Fair Street, decreasing Centennial and New Holland zones.
- North and northwest of Dawsonville Highway at McEver Road will be pulled into Centennial, decreasing GEA.
- Catalina and The Commons will be pulled into Mundy Mill, decreasing GEA.
- There will be two clusters: Centennial, Enota, Fair Street and New Holland in one; Gainesville and Mundy Mill in the other. Bus transportation will be provided to students within the cluster but parents would be responsible for providing transportation for students attending outside their cluster.
The informational handout estimated that 12-percent of students will not attend the school they attend now once the 2018-2019 school year begins in August, but that number will probably be lower once the school year begins.
Jennifer Garcia of Gainesville was in the audience but had to admit after William’s presentation that she was still confused about whether or not her younger brother would have transportation provided in the new school year.
“My little brother is going to middle school,” Garcia said, “and I’m still confused about what’s going on.” Garcia said she would stay and speak with Dr. Williams in hope of finding an answer.
Sardar Alkiki spoke for several minutes with Dr. Williams after the meeting and said he was given the information he needed.
“My question was answered; everything went perfect and I really appreciate what they are doing,” Alkiki said.
The proposed attendance zones will need final approval from the Board of Education when they meet in February.
“Over the next month this will unravel a little bit more,” Williams said. “When they (parents) get the school choice letters and they realize their attendance zone has changed but they still have the option of the school they attend, I think a lot of the stress behind this will subside.”
Williams said those letters should be in the mail by the second week of February.
A second informational meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 30th, at Centennial Arts Academy beginning at 6 p.m.