Houston schools to host rezoning meetings

jmink@macon.comDecember 8, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- As Houston school officials look to rezone some elementary schools for next academic year, administrators invite parents to zoning meetings starting this week.

The meetings will allow the community to ask questions, offer feedback and listen to proposed changes for Lindsey, Parkwood and Westside elementary schools. The schools will be rezoned and grade levels will be shuffled in an effort to streamline academics and finances, officials said.

The meetings are all at 6 p.m. and will be held Tuesday at Westside, Wednesday at Lindsey and Dec. 18 at Parkwood. About 1,300 students attend the three schools combined.

Officials propose they become sister schools, with Parkwood housing pre-kindergarten through first-graders, Westside housing second- and third-graders and Lindsey housing fourth- and fifth-graders. With only a couple grade levels in each school, the new model would allow faculty to better focus and specialize on each grade, said Cindy Flesher, assistant superintendent for school operations.

“Everybody can hone in on those particular grades,” she said. “Everybody at the schools can be experts -- developmental needs, academically, socially, all of that.”

Currently, grade levels in some schools have only a couple teachers. For example, at Lindsey, the fourth and fifth grades have two teachers each. With more teachers dedicated to every grade level, educators will have more collaboration and brainstorming opportunities. Additionally, policies, such as behavior management, can be more streamlined, she said.

“What you expect from a kindergartner is much different than what you would expect from fifth-grader,” Flesher said.

Additionally, finances -- particularly Title I funding -- only would be split among a couple grades, she said.

The principals of all schools are on board, and the board of education should vote on the rezoning in February. But officials wanted to first give the community a chance to weigh in, Flesher said.

Some already have called with questions. A big concern involves after-school programs. Currently, Parkwood is the only one of the three schools with such a program because there isn’t enough interest in the other schools. After the rezoning, officials would consider operating an after-school program at one of the schools and busing students from the other schools, Flesher said.

During a board retreat at the beginning of the school year, board Vice Chairman Fred Wilson said some parents are accustomed to taking all their children to one elementary school, a routine that could change under the new model.

It’s an example of a concern parents can voice at the meetings.

“Our goal really for this meeting is to share what we see as benefits and provide an opportunity for parents” to ask questions, Flesher said. “We want to get feedback about what their concerns are. ... We want to be open and transparent.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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