Columbia County school officials are considering two options for the zoning of a new elementary school opening in 2005.
Some pupils currently attending Riverside, Greenbrier and Stevens Creek elementary schools could be rezoned for the new school located at the corner of Mullikin and Conn roads in Evans, according to options presented to school board members in a Tuesday meeting.
Riverside Elementary, the county's most populated elementary school with an enrollment near 1,000, could see the biggest change.
Both rezoning options allow for transferring more than 350 pupils from Riverside to the yet-to-be-named school.
Both options also call for taking more than 150 pupils currently zoned for Greenbrier Elementary and nearly 40 zoned for Stevens Creek Elementary.
"This is what we've come up with at this point," school Superintendent Tommy Price said. "These options are what we think will work best."
Administrators proposed transferring 361 pupils from Riverside and 38 pupils from Stevens Creek in both options.
The first option takes 152 pupils from Greenbrier, but option two takes 188 pupils.
In either option, the new school will hold more than 550 pupils.
Neighborhoods that could be affected include the Bridlewood, Eagle Chase, Eagle Landing and Hamilton Crossing subdivisions, and all others on Mullikin Road; the two Jones Creek complexes with entrances on Furys Ferry Road; all residences on Blackstone Camp Road and on Southern Pines Drive; the Deerwood subdivisions; Northwood, Northridge, Summer Place, One Marshall Place and Fernbrook; Faircloth Commons, Chimney Hill, Woodbridge, Silverlake and High Grove; and all residences along Halali Farm Road.
The new school is closer in to all of these neighborhoods except Woodbridge, which is four-tenths of a mile closer to Greenbrier Elementary.
The zoning options also were designed to handle future growth on Blackstone Camp and Hardy-McManus roads.
"We're hoping to effectively remove potential problems by anticipating their growth potential," Price said.
Neither option was approved by board members at the Tuesday meeting. Instead, the members accepted the zoning proposals simply as information.
Administration officials scheduled a public hearing at Riverside Middle School for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7 to allow parents to weigh in on the zoning possibilities.
Also at the meeting, a focus group working on ways to improve elementary education in Columbia County presented its initial findings to the board.
The main suggestion was a two-hour early release every Wednesday to allow teachers time for training and to collaborate on lesson plans.
"If we want to raise out SAT scores and meet our system goals, we have to start at the elementary level," said Tami Flowers, an assistant principal at Martinez Elementary and co-leader of the task force.
Flowers said an early release program has proven successful in other school systems and lets teachers organize better lesson plans by working together.
On the early release day, elementary pupils can spend the extra two hours in after-school programs monitored by paraprofessionals, Flowers said.
"I think they clearly demonstrated the benefits of planning time," Price said. "You can't put together the kind of lessons that keep kids involved if they don't have time."
Trustee Lee Muns said an early release day would create problems in transportation and reduce the amount of instruction time for pupils.
"I don't think we should commit or buy-in until we get some of these strategic questions answered," he said.
Price admitted the proposal seemed radical and asked the board only to approve further study of the idea.
"We challenged this task force to think outside the box, and you have thought outside the box," board member Regina Buccafusco said. "It does merit continued research."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.