WARNER ROBINS — The Houston County Board of Education will consider an alternate school zoning map, in addition to the one proposed in October, today at the board’s central office in Perry at 1 p.m.
The newest map was first presented Monday at the board’s work session at Quail Run Elementary in Warner Robins. Before presenting the alternate proposal, Superintendent David Carpenter emphasized that zoning was an ongoing process. Because the board sought public feedback, the original map was subject to change.
While the new map still keeps the board’s four goals in mind, the alternate proposal places a stronger consideration on geographic proximity, Carpenter said. Notably, homes in the Magnolia Hills, Royal Oaks and nearby subdivisions are rezoned for Houston County High School in the alternative proposal. Homes in the Thompson Mill corridor are rezoned for Veterans High School.
The public will be able to look at both proposed maps online at www.hcbe.net, where the board will post a new survey about the two proposals, Carpenter said. Those who have already responded to the board’s first survey will also have the opportunity to respond to the second.
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The board will consider community feedback in its final decision, Carpenter said.
A final decision on rezoning will take place Jan. 28 at noon at the board office.
Board members considered several possible changes to the map, said Stephen Thublin, assistant superintendent for finance and business operations. Adjustments must be carefully considered as to how they will affect the map as a whole, and one question lies at the heart of the decisions the board will make, Thublin said.
“What’s in the best interest of the system that meets all requirements?”
According to the school system, the proposed rezoning maps were designed to reduce overcrowding at the high schools in Warner Robins, work within the parameters of U.S. Department of Justice demographic guidelines to comply with a court order, include proposed zones of growth within each high school zone and remove zoning islands to make the zones contiguous.
The school zones must reflect the system’s 36 percent black population within 10 percentage points, a rule based on a verbal recommendation from the Justice Department to enforce a court order with roots in a case from the 1960s. Throughout the rezoning process, some groups have challenged Houston County schools on that criteria, arguing that recent Supreme Court rulings on school districts in Seattle and Kentucky have nullified those requirements.
However, Thublin said that because Houston County is still under the court order and those school districts were not, those rulings may not be applicable locally.
The board also has received many zoning proposals from both individuals and groups, which were considered in the selection process. Despite delays in the original schedule for final approval of the new zoning maps, Carpenter said it was best to carefully consider all of the options before taking action.
“I would rather be deliberate in the process than rush through it,” Carpenter said.