When Columbia County school officials redrew the attendance zones to fill the county's new elementary school on Mullikin Road in Evans, they knew fixing the long-term overcrowding problems at other schools would bring some short-term pain from displaced pupils.
Even so, this rezoning is thus far running remarkably smoothly, judging from the generally positive public reaction. School trustees have held off final approval for the new zones until their first meeting in January as a courtesy to board member Wayne Bridges, who represents the area and couldn't attend this past Tuesday's meeting. They're expected to agree to the new lines without dissent.
But while the rezoning is running smoothly and badly needed to relieve overcrowding, the creation of a new school also provides an opportunity for the Columbia County school system to take a bold step for the future. It's an opportunity they shouldn't pass up.
The rezoning plan would pare down overcrowding at Riverside, Stevens Creek and Greenbrier elementary schools by shifting them to the new school. While the transferring students will at least for the immediate future get more elboy room, only the students transferred out of Stevens Creek will be leaving behind part of their academic program along with crowded classrooms.
That's because Stevens Creek is the only elementary school in the county offering daily Spanish instruction to all of its pupils. To their credit, school officials recognize the value that's being stripped from the pupils moved from Stevens Creek. Their solution? They're offering to allow any student already attending the school to stay and continue foreign language instruction.
What an opportunity the school system is passing up!
Rather than allowing the students to stay with their Spanish classes, school officials should let the pupils take the instruction with them. The school system's own study this year recommended expanding foreign language to other schools, and the opening of a new campus provides a perfect opportunity to begin that expansion.
Sure, it's a bold move, and it would cost more money. But if school officials were serious when they agreed with their own study, they'd also find a way now to start putting their words into action -- one new school at a time.
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