Houston board OKs attendance zones
by Jake Jacobs
Parents demonstrate before school board meeting Thursday.
PERRY – It wasn’t the first or the alternate proposed school attendance zone that was approved Thursday by the Houston County Board of Education. It was Option 3, with a modification.

The board wound up a four-month process of proposals and public forums with the 6-1 vote. At-large board member Griff Clements voted against.

Clements said after the meeting he did not see Option 3 until Thursday morning, and parents always need to be aware of changing zones for their children.

“I don’t think this was open and transparent government,” he said. While he’s still assured that all students in Houston County will get a good education, nonetheless “I just didn’t like the process.”

The new proposal also did not meet the board’s goals when the zoning process was started, he said. “This is too quick and I don’t think it’s right.”

In the Option 3 proposal, students in the Quail Run area would go to Northside High, and students in the area running east from Sandy Run Road to Ga. 247 south to Ga. 96 west to Moody Road and north to Sandy Run Road will go to Warner Robins High.

The centerline of the roads is the boundary; meaning those who live north off Ga. 96 in that area would go to Warner Robins High and those who live south of Ga. 96 would go to Veterans High School.

School board Chairman Tom Walmer offered modifications to the zone proposal, and the board approved 5-2 to allow siblings from ninth grade on up of seniors grandfathered in to attend the same school as the seniors but they have to apply for an out-of-zone transfer each year until they graduate. Clements and board Vice Chairman Toby Hill voted against the modification.

“I can’t support out-of-zone transfers here,” said Clements.

After the elementary and middle school zones were approved, the high school zones came before the board.

“I’ve got a problem with this (Option 3),” Clements said. “We haven’t had a chance to study this and the public was not given a chance to look at it.”

The packed meeting room broke out in applause, earning a rebuke from Walmer, who said the meeting “was not a tea party.”

Clements went on to say he could consider the original Oct. 20 proposal or the alternate proposal of Jan. 11, “but not this. It needs to be put on the table and discussed before we vote on it.”

Walmer replied there have been many responses from the community the past three months, and “if we had to wait every time we’d never vote on anything.”

The proposals are not disrupting students, he added. Students at Northside High and Warner Robins High today will stay there. “Nobody is being given a raw deal.”

“We have heard the enormous voice of the community,” said Hill, “and we want to bring closure to this and heal the divisiveness that’s out there. We know we can’t satisfy all.”

Board member Skip Dawkins said the community’s involvement in education is a defining trait of Houston County, and “we can put our differences behind us and move on.”

Other board members echoed his remarks, saying it was time to set the zones and move forward.

Some residents were not in agreement.

“I am so literally mad I don’t know what to do,” said a resident of the Harper’s Ridge/Tucker Place subdivision. Students there, now at Houston County High, would be zoned for Warner Robins High. “They already decided this before the meeting,” she added, “and they’re not concerned about our children. All got what they wanted except us.”

Kathy Brown, a former board of education candidate and activist, said disappointed residents could make their wishes known to their school councils and consider the route of filing a grievance.

“There’s another route come November,” said Charlie Loiacono, also of the Harper’s Ridge/Tucker Place subdivision, referring to this year’s election. The posts of Clements, Marianne Melnick and Fred Wilson are up for re-election.

The new zoning map was put on the board’s Web site, www.hcbe.net, Thursday.

© 2010