PERRY — Dennis and Elizabeth Watts are among local parents who are thankful the Houston County Board of Education is now offering an alternate zoning proposal for the 2010-11 school year.
The two wore Houston County High School apparel to Tuesday’s school board meeting. Under the original proposal presented in October, the sons of the Kathleen residents would have been rezoned for Perry High School, instead of Houston County High School where their eldest is a sophomore.
The alternate zoning proposal, originally presented Monday at the board’s work session at Quail Run Elementary in Warner Robins, places a stronger consideration on geographic proximity, Superintendent David Carpenter said.
“I’m glad there weren’t any winners or losers. It was the right thing to do,” Dennis Watts said. “(The board) is listening to our suggestions and said they would. They’re being as fair to as many students as possible in respect to community schools.”
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The public can view both proposed maps and respond to a zoning survey online at www.hcbe.net. A final decision on rezoning will take place Jan. 28 at noon at the board office.
The board will consider community feedback in its final decision, Carpenter said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Board Chairman Tom Walmer said parents have wasted no time in offering their input on the alternate plan.
“I received my first e-mail before I left the meeting (Monday) night,” he said.
The board received 99 responses to its new online survey by 7 a.m. Tuesday. That number jumped to 455 by 5 p.m., said Beth McLaughlin, director of community and school affairs.
A new frequently asked questions document will also be added to the board’s site to address issues and responses raised by those responding to the survey.
“I’m glad they listened and they submitted alternate plans,” said Nikki Musselwhite of Kathleen, who is associated with the Houston County Neighbors Association. The group was a vocal opponent of the board’s original proposal.
Some have criticized the group, but Musselwhite said HCNA acted within its rights.
“They cared enough to band together. This is a community effort. We care about our children, and instead of fussing about it, we did something about it,” she said.
At the meeting, board member Fred Wilson expressed concern that the alternate plan could leave little growth for areas zoned for Northside and Warner Robins high schools in the future.
Walmer added that no solution would be perfect, but the board was ultimately trying to make the best decision for all.
“No proposal will be ideal,” he said. “Sometimes you have to look at the strengths and weaknesses.”
Angela Fussell, the mother of a ninth-grader at Houston County, felt that more planning could have taken place in that regard several years ago when the board considered another rezoning plan.
“Things being talked about now could have been talked about in the course of three years,” Fussell said.
She believes board officials should consider options such as magnet schools to alleviate crowding at Northside and Warner Robins.
“They could create something cutting-edge for the county,” she said.
All in all, Fussell, who serves on the school council at Houston County, said she prefers the alternate plan because it keeps schoolchildren in their neighborhoods.
“What happens to the community is a holistic approach.” Fussell said.
In other business Tuesday, the board approved David Bruce, a teacher and coach at Warner Robins, as athletics director and head football coach for Veterans High School.
“He’s done a great job at Warner Robins High School,” Wilson said of Bruce. “They will certainly miss him, but he deserved promotion and we are certainly happy for him being selected.”
The board also approved Kevin Kinsler as the athletics director and head football coach of Northside, following Coach Conrad Nix’s retirement. Kinsler is currently the defensive coordinator at Northside.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.