WARNER ROBINS — Sonya Milam spent Wednesday afternoon at Northside High School buying T-shirts and pins to show her loyalty to the school and her preference for the Houston County school board’s original zoning proposal for the upcoming school year.
Under the alternate proposal, her children, a ninth-grader at Northside, a seventh-grader at Thomson Middle School and a preschooler who will attend Quail Run Elementary next year, would be rezoned to Houston County High School.
Milam will join a cohort consisting of Warner Robins and Northside high school councils, parents and supporters in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church Garmon Street today at 6:30 p.m. The group is mobilizing to express opinions about the alternate school zoning plan first presented at last week’s school board work session. Attendees are asked to wear apparel from the schools to the meeting.
The Houston County Board of Education will take a final vote on next year’s zoning map at noon Jan. 28 at its central office.
Many families who are zoned for Northside and Warner Robins prefer the original zoning plan to the alternate one.
“I’m very unhappy. I feel like we’re being picked on,” said Milam, who lives in the Quail Run subdivision. “Two years ago, we could have moved anywhere, and we only chose to move seven houses away.”
Jim Elliott, who serves as chairman for the school council at Warner Robins High, said the school councils and parents from both schools have been frantically putting the event together during the week.
“One concern from my school’s perspective is ... the new map landlocks both schools. There is no growth area for future residents or other developments. There are no prospects with growing schools in the future,” said Elliott, who also serves as the Warner Robins city attorney.
He echoed a similar concern from Houston County school board member Fred Wilson.
“We hope to rally the troops,” said Elliott, who has a seventh-grader at Huntington Middle School. “Despite the fact that they’re rivals on the field, the court, academically and otherwise, (Northside and Warner Robins) are coming together on this.”
Jim Maddox, chairman of Northside High’s school council and president of its PTO, said the main objective of the meeting is to inform parents about the alternate plan and how to contact school board officials about the zoning plans. Maddox, who also lives in Quail Run, is concerned many parents are not even aware the alternate proposal is an option.
Both Maddox and Milam feel their group has relatively little time to voice their concerns over the alternate proposal compared to those who disapproved of the original proposal.
The neighborhood has been rezoned back and forth several times between the two high schools in recent years, both Maddox and Milam said.
“We’re the yo-yo, the ping-pong ball that goes back and forth as it needs to,” said Maddox, who has a junior at Northside and eighth-grade twins at Thomson.
During the time Milam’s children have attended Houston schools, they’ve developed an allegiance to Northside for its history, tradition and diverse student body.
Houston County “is an excellent school, as is Northside, but we really want to stay here,” she said.
Maddox said the board will try to act in the best interest of the system as a whole, but he hopes it will consider the long-term effects of its decision.
“Whatever plan the board goes with, they will try to do the best for the county. Whatever way it works out, I think it’ll be OK,” he said. “I just think with the alternate proposal, we will suffer and have consequences we will regret.”
Board chairman Tom Walmer said he heard about today’s meeting, but he did not know many details about it.
“Obviously, any parent group or individual can meet within their rights,” Walmer said. “I’m hoping anyone concerned gets their opinions out.”
Walmer has been contacted by parents about both proposed plans, though more people he has spoken to countywide have expressed a preference for the alternate plan, he said.
“Neither proposal is ideal, but there is no such thing as an ideal proposal,” he said. “Anything is going to have flaws as it affects certain individuals. No final decision has been made either way, and we are continuing to have input.”
To contact Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.