Warner Robins parents worry about rezoning plan

alopez@macon.comJanuary 22, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Parents met Houston County school officials Wednesday evening to talk about elementary school rezoning in the city.

The proposed rezoning discussed will impact 74 children, said Stephen Thublin, assistant superintendent of business and finance. Tuesday, rezoning talks in Perry concerned more than 800 children, Thublin said.

There were fewer parents at Wednesday’s forum at Russell Elementary, but like the parents Tuesday night, attendees weren’t happy with the changes.

“Please give the new schools a chance,” Thublin said after the meeting. “What we found in past rezonings is that change is difficult, but as soon as the people are at the new schools they love them.”

Russell Elementary is at capacity and as part of the plan to alleviate overcrowding there, some students will have to move to Pearl Stephens Elementary and some will have to move to C.B. Watson Elementary. All of these students will come from one neighborhood south of Booth Road around Hidden Creek Circle. Students in pre-K to second grade would go to C.B. Watson, and students in third grade to fifth grade would go to Pearl Stephens, which is the current site of Linwood Elementary.

“I’m sad to lose the children, the students that are at our school,” said Jo Hall, Russell Elementary principal, “but we do need the space.”

With more than 700 students currently enrolled, Russell Elementary depends on portable classrooms to accommodate everyone.

Christina Randall lives in the neighborhood affected by rezoning and is upset that her children, one a first-grader and the other a fourth-grader, will be separated.

“It was a shock for us to hear it,” Randall said. “This was their last year to be together coming up next year.”

Juan Garcia told school board officials he wanted to protest. He does not want his child moved from Russell.

“We’re comfortable with the staff; we’re comfortable with the teachers,” Garcia said.

Stephanie Burkes is worried for her daughter who has special needs. She fears her daughter, a fourth-grader, will be bullied at her new school or lose the progress she has made academically at Russell.

Superintendent Robin Hines told her Houston County does not tolerate bullying and invited her to meet with her new school’s principal.

For the second night in a row, allowing students to finish out their elementary school careers at the school they have grown accustomed to was brought up. Hines explained that a parent would have to submit an out-of-zone request, but he admitted that most of those get rejected because county policy says students must attend school in the zone they are assigned.

After the meeting, Burkes spoke to Deborah Sanders, who will be the principal of the new Pearl Stephens school, where her daughter is zoned to attend under the proposed map.

She was less than reassured.

“It’s going to be a change, that’s for sure,” Burkes said.

The Houston County school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed attendance zone map Feb. 11.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.

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