Board Briefs: School Board Hears Plans for Relieving Cherokee HS Overcrowding

Board Briefs: School Board Hears Plans for Relieving Cherokee HS Overcrowding



Etowah HS student delegate Katie Bishop leads the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

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

Creekview HS senior Elhana Kelley is congratulated by the Board and Superintendent for her election to the Area 1 North Region FFA Officer Team.

The School Board recognized PE teachers from CCSD schools that were named to the Governor’s SHAPE Honor Roll.

The School Board recognized CCSD teachers for earning Apple Vanguard Certification as well as those earning Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert certification.

The School Board recognized Georgia PTA State-level award winners for 2016-17, including Model PTAs, Outstanding Principals, Outstanding Units, membership awards, as well as the 2017 Georgia PTA Outstanding School Nurse– Thania Molina from Mill Creek MS.

CCSD 2017-18 Report Shows No Schools “Critically Overcrowded”

Category : CCSD

For the fifth consecutive year, none of CCSD’s schools are considered “critically overcrowded,” reflecting long-standing successful management practices and School Board policies governing student enrollment growth forecasts and school construction project planning.

A report with additional information is available here.

Report: No CCSD Schools Reach ‘Critically Overcrowded’ Levels

The 2016-17 Cherokee County Inventory of School Housing shows the impact of returning enrollment growth and indicates several areas where additional classroom space will soon be needed.

Additionally, 2016-17 marks the fourth consecutive year during which none of the School District’s schools are considered “critically overcrowded,” reflecting long-standing successful management practices and School Board policies governing student enrollment growth forecasts and school construction project planning.

The below chart uses this school year’s 20-day enrollment count (Aug. 25, 2016) to measure the percentage of overcrowding. School Board Policy defines “critically overcrowded” as when a school exceeds 140% of its enrollment capacity and meets other criteria, including use of all existing portable classrooms. Pursuant to the School Board’s Critical Overcrowding Policy (FDBD), the impact of actual student enrollment is evaluated annually after the 20th day of classes, which is when attendance traditionally peaks, to determine critically overcrowded schools and what, if any, action is needed.

The effort to eliminate “critical overcrowding” in the School District began in 2001, with an aggressive, multi-tiered Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (Ed SPLOST) plan proposed by a Blue Ribbon Committee of community leaders and approved by the School Board for inclusion on a local ballot referendum.  This plan to “bond” future sales tax revenue, which has been extended twice by voters over the past decade, continues today with new construction and renovations, strategic land purchases, replacement school buses and emerging technologies for students and staff.

Unfortunately, if portable classrooms were not available, 11 schools would be operating at 100% or more of their capacity.  It should be remembered that, while portable classrooms provide relief for classroom instruction, they do not alleviate overcrowding in media centers, cafeterias, restrooms and hallways. The schools are: Free Home ES, Liberty ES, Woodstock ES, Creekland MS, E.T. Booth MS, Mill Creek MS, Woodstock MS, Cherokee HS, Creekview HS, Sequoyah HS and Woodstock HS.  Of those 11 schools, five are operating at more than 120% capacity… a decrease from seven reaching that level last school year: Free Home ES – 126%, Creekland MS – 126%, Woodstock MS – 121%, Cherokee HS – 133% and Sequoyah HS – 137%.

Staff continues to analyze this new data to determine recommendations that may be needed to address overcrowding in preparation for the next school year(s).  Data is compiled and analyzed year-round to monitor not only enrollment growth, but also the local real estate market, development trends, local birth rates and other demographics … in order to best determine when and where new and/or replacement school facilities are needed.

Relief has been provided to Dean Rusk Middle School, which had one of the highest levels of overcrowding in the School District last year.  With its opening this month, the School District gained capacity at that location, and also at its four elementary feeder schools — Hickory Flat ES, Holly Springs ES STEM Academy, Indian Knoll ES and Mountain Road ES — as the sixth-grade students from those facilities now attend Dean Rusk MS in its new Grades 6 – 8 grade configuration.  Additionally, Sequoyah HS will add classroom capacity as it gains the original Dean Rusk MS facility into its footprint later this school year!

Again, it should be noted that all new and replacement school construction and renovations in the School District are funded by Education SPLOST revenue.  Voters will again have the opportunity to authorize the School District to continue its capital outlay plans, as the School Board has called for a renewal of the Ed SPLOST in November.

2016-17 CCISH Chart

The 2016-17 Cherokee County Inventory of School Housing shows the impact of returning enrollment growth and indicates several areas where additional classroom space will soon be needed.