The School Board on Thursday, September 14, 2017, heard plans for a public review of options to relieve overcrowding at Cherokee High School.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said he and his senior staff have been closely monitoring Cherokee High School enrollment, which now tops 2,600 — and developing options to provide relief.
While the campus is not “critically overcrowded” due to solutions already implemented, the Superintendent has committed to gathering public input to make a recommendation for School Board action… to take effect in the 2018-19 school year.
“This is a transparent process,” Dr. Hightower said. “We will hold meetings that are open to the public, and we want to hear from everyone who has an opinion or concern about the possible solutions.”
Not only is the campus now home to 14 mobile units with 28 classrooms and 22 floating teachers, but 700 students crowd the cafeteria for each lunch period. Only 196 students – a fraction of the 458 seniors – are able to park on campus (no underclassmen have the opportunity); and hallways, restrooms and other infrastructure cannot comfortably accommodate any further growth.
“Unfortunately, due to our School District’s decades of rapid growth coupled with a tax base that cannot generate enough revenue for us to ‘pay as we go’ with construction, we have a ‘mortgage’ to pay off from our aggressive building and major renovations plan… and not enough borrowing capacity to fund construction of a new high school ($70+ Million) in the next five years,” Dr. Hightower said.
While Dr. Hightower already had advised the School Board of his plans to include construction of a new high school campus to relieve Cherokee HS, which will take approximately three years to build, in the 2021 Education SPLOST referendum, he said Thursday that he strongly believes a solution is needed now.
“If we were two years from a solution, I might say we could do double sessions or another solution that would only involve Cherokee High School’s campus,” Dr. Hightower said. “But we’re not in that kind of timeframe.”
To begin the recommendation process, Attendance Focus Group Meetings will be held Oct. 9-12 (a detailed schedule is below). These meetings are open to the entire community: parents, employees, volunteers, partners, neighbors. At these meetings, the Superintendent’s staff will share current data, projected growth and possible solutions.
The most important factors the Superintendent will take into consideration when reviewing these solutions are whether the changes will negatively impact teaching and learning and whether the recommendations will be fiscally responsible. He will make a recommendation to the School Board at its November meeting, with a vote scheduled for the December meeting.
“No matter what options are considered during the process, I want our employees to know they will not lose their position with CCSD because of the solution the School Board chooses. You will have a home,” he said. “We’re in growth mode, and we need all the teachers and staff we have… and we’ll need more as we continue to grow.”
Several possible solutions already are being floated by parents in the community involving various schools in the Cherokee Innovation Zone, including ACE Academy. All would require a shift of students or programs… and would need additional analysis as part of this input process.
The schedule of meetings is below – the public can attend any and all meetings, all of which are from 7 to 9 p.m.:
Canton ES STEM Academy: Oct. 9
Knox ES: Oct. 10
R.M. Moore ES: Oct. 11
Cherokee HS and ACE Academy: Oct. 12 at Cherokee HS auditorium
Also on Thursday, the School Board voted to advertise the CCSD Downtown Center, which is the name used for the offices at the Historic Canton High School building, and adjacent larger corner parking lot for sale.
The School Board also:
• Heard Strategic Work Session presentations on “Trends in Education” including topics such as the Canvas learning management system, the Balanced Literacy model, middle school STEM activities and a pilot program to use cameras in classrooms to improve instruction;
• Recognized Woodstock High School Navy JROTC Cadet Lt. Commander Katlyn Deveau as winner of National-level Legion of Valor Award;
• Recognized Georgia PTA State-level award winners;
• Recognized 19 CCSD educators for earning Apple Vanguard certification;
• Recognized 16 CCSD educators for earning Microsoft Innovative Educator Classroom certification;
• Recognized 10 CCSD educators as Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts;
• Recognized 31 CCSD schools and their PE and Health teachers for being named to the Governor’s SHAPE (Student Health and Physical Education) Honor Roll;
• Recognized Creekview HS Senior Elhana Kelley for her election to the Area 1 North Region FFA Officer Team;
• Approved a proclamation in honor of Constitution Week;
• Approved a proclamation recognizing September as National Attendance Awareness Month;
• Approved the renewal of Partnership Agreements with Cobb EMC, Hobgood Baseball Inc., North Georgia Regional Education Services Agency, Piedmont College and Sequoyah Regional Library System; • Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips; • Approved monthly financial reports;
• Approved the issuance of a tax anticipation note;
• Approved the surplus of property to be sold at CCSD’s annual surplus auction on Oct. 7 (more information posted here);
• Approved granting an easement to the Cherokee County Water & Sewerage Authority;
• Approved special lease agreements;
• Approved monthly personnel recommendations; and,
• Approved the annual contract with Ninth District Opportunity Inc.
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, October 19, 2017