The Oconee County Board of Education voted unanimously tonight (Monday) to approve the redistricting plan put forward by school administrators on Sept. 18 to accommodate the new Dove Creek Elementary school set to open next academic year.
None of the parents of students currently in Malcolm Bridge Elementary School who will be moved to Rocky Branch Elementary School next year spoke up at the meeting, though they registered their unhappiness with the plan at a meeting with the Board on Oct. 10.
Board members Wayne Bagley, Tim Burgess and Amy Parrish did state their reasons for supporting the plan before the formal vote, saying it was the best solution available.
Under the approved plan, students living northwest of U.S. 78 will attend the new Dove Creek Elementary now under construction on Hog Mountain Road between Osborne Road and Dewey Road near the Barrow County line.
Students living southeast of U.S. 78 currently going to Rocky Branch Elementary School will continue to attend that school.
The majority of students on that side of U.S. 78 now going to Malcom Bridge Elementary will continue to attend that school as well.
Up to 52 students now attending Malcolm Bridge Elementary, however, will be moved to Rocky Branch Elementary School to equalize the size of the student bodies at the three schools.
At that meeting on Oct. 10, the parents of these moved children were outspoken in opposing the plan.
Rising fifth graders will have the option of staying at their current school if their parents provide the transportation.
Responding To Critics
At the Board’s work session last week, Board Chairman Tom Odom as well as Bagley and Burgess had indicated their support for the plan put forward by the administration of the school system.
In their comments at the meeting tonight, Bagley, Burgess and Parrish referenced the issues raised by parents at that Oct. 10 Listening Session held at North Oconee High School.
Parrish said “I’m a people pleaser” and that her inclination after the Listening Session was to go in the direction advocated by the parents, who were asking that their children not be moved from Malcom Bridge Elementary to Rocky Branch Elementary.
“I had to go back to what were our main objectives,” she said, “and I think the initial plan satisfied that the best.”
Traffic And After School
Burgess said he was particularly sensitive to two issues raised by the parents: traffic on Rocky Branch Road and Malcom Bridge Road and after school programs.
Burgess said he understood the comments of the parents, but “Traffic issues are not new to the county and they are not necessarily the purview of something that we as a Board can affect, or change, or correct.”
Burgess said traffic issues should be addressed by the Board of Commissioners.
He said he hopes the School System will replicate at Rocky Branch the after school program at Malcom Bridge that the parents said was important to them.
Bagley repeated his comments from last week’s meeting, saying “I don’t feel like a single child that goes to any one of these three schools will be worse off than they are where they’re at now.”
The video below is of entire meeting of the Board of Education, held in the Superintendent Building in Watkinsville.
The Board took up the redistricting plan at 34:28 in the video.
Burgess, Parrish and Bagley made their comments, in that order, after the motion to approve the redistricting plan was before the Board