Monday, February 01, 2010

Cogburn Woods, Manning Oaks to modify attendance zones

Courtesy Candy Waylock / Appen Newspapers

February 01, 2010 ALPHARETTA - A small number of students from Cogburn Woods Elementary School will be re-zoned back to Manning Oaks Elementary next school year in an attempt to balance student numbers at the two North Fulton schools. However parents at both schools still have concerns about how the school system is making changes.

The modification to the current attendance zones should impact fewer than 50 students, most of who live in North Park Estates and the Villages of Devonshire in Milton. The revised map makes a small change to an area-wide redistricting map approved last year with the opening of Birmingham Falls Elementary and new building additions at several area elementary schools.

The new lines, however, ended up increasing enrollment at Cogburn Woods. Current attendance is at 1,007 students, up from 916 students last year, and well over the projection of 909. At Manning Oaks, the new zones resulted in an enrollment drop from 949 last year to 756 students this year, about 30 kids over projection.

With the revised lines, school planners expect enrollment to drop in August to 917 students at Cogburn Woods, with Manning Oaks rising to 831. The revised enrollment map was presented to the community for input during a meeting last week and will be submitted to the school board in February for action in March.

A planning official with Fulton Schools described the modification as a "tweak" to the existing attendance lines which resulted in unintended consequences for Cogburn Woods. Yngrid Huff, planning director for Fulton Schools, said the enrollment projections for Cogburn Woods were off by more than 10 percent – a glaring anomaly for system planners who hit the mark in nearly every other school in the system.

"The intent of redistricting is to balance enrollment and to leave the schools better off than they were prior to the change of enrollment boundaries," said Huff. "[But the new lines] created a true imbalance at Cogburn Woods and Manning Oaks which is not the intent of the school board."

Of the nearly 100 "unforecasted" students who turned up at Cogburn Woods in August, Huff said 75 were new students to the Fulton County School System. Of those 75 new students, 40 were new to Georgia and the remaining either transfers back from private school or from other school systems.

Parents Still Dissatisfied

The revised lines still failed to mollify many parents at Cogburn Woods who have been venting their frustration at the school system since last year. Parents said the overcrowded conditions could have been avoided had they just listened to parents last year during the initial redistricting.

"Although [Cogburn Woods parents] were happy to see some relief, there was a overwhelming dissatisfaction throughout the community… as this 'tweak' in the zoning barely touches the surface," said Donna Allen, a parent at Cogburn Woods.

She added the community's input on low enrollment projections was ignored last year and she expects the same to be done in the revision, putting the school right back where it is now.

Manning Oaks parents were equally critical, questioning why only the southern border of the Cogburn Woods attendance zone was being modified. They wondered why other schools in the area, such as Alpharetta and Summit Hill elementary schools were not impacted with more students.

Huff explained the northern and western borders which Cogburn Woods shares with Summit Hill and Alpharetta were not changed during the previous redistricting. To go in and redraw those existing lines would be considered more than a "tweak" and would require board approval.

"Only the lines that were moved in the [spring 2009] redistricting could be considered in a tweak," explained Huff. "To move kids who were not moved previously moved would require a full redistricting process."

As far as Manning Oaks going above capacity with the addition of 50 kids, Huff explained the modification simply allows both schools to share more equitably in the overcrowding. She noted Manning Oaks also has more instructional capacity this year since some special programs are no longer in place at the school, freeing up more classroom space.

This is the second accommodation Fulton Schools has made to the Cogburn Woods community this year to handle overcrowding. Earlier in the year the system made an unprecedented offer to allow parents to transfer their children to less crowded schools, as long as the parents provided transportation. Fewer than a dozen students accepted that option.


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