The School Board on Thursday, October 19, 2017, heard an update on meetings gathering community feedback on potential overcrowding mitigation plans for Cherokee High School.
While the campus doesn’t meet CCSD’s definition of “critically overcrowded” due to solutions already implemented, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said he’s committed to asking for the School Board’s approval in December of a plan for alleviating overcrowding beginning next school year.
The School District held a first round of Attendance Area Focus Group meetings in the Cherokee Innovation Zone earlier this month, with two follow-up meetings scheduled for next week (7 p.m. Oct. 25 and 26 at Cherokee HS) to provide detailed information in response to parent questions.
Three plans were reviewed with parents at those meetings, the details of which are posted online here; a fourth possibility floated by Canton ES STEM Academy parents also will be examined at next week’s meetings.
“We don’t necessarily like any of these plans because they affect students and staff who haven’t done anything other than keep waking up to go to school each day,” Dr. Hightower said. “No matter what plan we choose, it will be a change for some of our students and staff. What we’re tasked with is finding the plan that has the least negative impact on our programs, operations and budget.”
The three plans presented by staff so far are:
1. Cherokee HS expands to include the neighboring Canton ES STEM Academy campus; Canton ES STEM Academy students are consolidated into Knox ES and R.M. Moore ES, with STEM programs added to both of those campuses and R.M. Moore ES retaining Title I services (while Knox ES will not see enough of a demographic shift to qualify as Title I, students in need will continue to receive extra services).
2. Cherokee HS expands to include Canton ES STEM Academy; Canton ES STEM Academy students relocate to the ACE Academy campus (the 30-year-old Teasley MS building on Knox Bridge Highway); ACE Academy students move to the former Tippens ES (30-plus-year-old building on Glenwood Street in Canton, which will need significant renovations before that move can occur).
3. Cherokee HS splits, with ninth-graders relocated to the ACE Academy campus; ACE Academy students move to the former Tippens ES.
Under all three plans, no CCSD staff would be reduced despite some potential consolidation, as due to retirements and enrollment growth districtwide, new hiring is needed every year.
The fourth possibility suggested by some Canton ES STEM Academy parents also calls for Cherokee HS to expand to include Canton ES STEM Academy, with Canton ES STEM Academy students relocating to the ACE Academy campus. But under this plan, ACE Academy — which serves students expelled from CCSD’s traditional high schools, as well as some who choose the program for its “work-at-your-own-pace” schedule -– would share the Canton ES STEM Academy building with the Cherokee HS freshmen.
Dr. Hightower emphasized Thursday night that the Cherokee Innovation Zone has received a lion’s share of CCSD construction funding over the last 15 years, totaling $140 Million, including construction of the replacement Canton ES, Hasty ES, Knox ES, Liberty ES and the replacement Teasley MS, a classroom addition at R.M. Moore ES and two rounds of improvements to Cherokee HS since 2002 that alone total nearly $15 Million.
“We have not ignored the Cherokee Zone in the past nor are we going to in the future,” Dr. Hightower said. “What we’re talking about now is a necessary stop-gap – we remain committed to building a new high school to serve north Cherokee. We now have the property to do it in Ball Ground or in Sutallee, and we also would love to find some land between Cherokee High and Woodstock. What we need is the $70-plus Million to build the school, which due to aggressive school construction for the last 20 years to keep up with explosive growth, we won’t be able to borrow for another six years when our community renews the Education SPLOST.”
Dr. Hightower noted that, depending on the plan approved by the School Board, there may be opportunities to renovate and expand portions of the Cherokee High School campus while it’s still occupied… which can’t occur now due to the lack of available open space unused by portables or as parking for staff and students.
The School Board also:
• Recognized Woodstock HS senior Katherine Relick for achieving a perfect ACT Score;
• Recognized CCSD high school seniors named 2018 National Merit Semi-Finalists;
• Recognized Woodstock HS junior Anna Fournaris and Creekland MS seventh-grader Brayden Fuentes for being named to the State School Superintendent’s 2017-18 Student Advisory Council;
• Recognized Clayton ES PE teacher Anne Cross as State “Fire Up Your Feet” award and grant winner;
• Approved a proclamation in honor of Retired Educators Day;
• Approved the renewal of Partnership Agreements with Brenau University, Cherokee Chorale, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Inc., North Central Georgia Learning Resources System, Waste Management and WellStar Health System;
• Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips;
• Approved monthly financial reports;
• Approved special lease agreements; and,
• Approved monthly personnel recommendations.
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, November 16, 2017. There will be a 6 p.m. public input session on the Cherokee HS Attendance Area Plans.