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Transportation zones a key topic at BOE work session today
Panel to explore expansion of Sallie Z. bus range, ways to better utilize school's size
Sallie Zetterower Elementary School science and social studies teacher David Brown, top, discusses Civil Rights with fifth graders Wednesday. While the school's enrollment is expected to increase after re-districting plans are adopted and implemented, classroom sizes will stay the same according to principal Todd Williford. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

A key point of discussion in a Board of Education work session will be the change of school transportation zones, according to Hayley Greene, spokesperson for Bulloch County schools.

As part of an annual system-wide meeting tonight at Sallie Zetterower Elementary, members of the board and school councils will weigh options to rearrange transportation zones in an attempt to balance distribution of students in four of the county’s elementary schools – Brooklet Elementary, Langston Chapel Elementary, Mill Creek Elementary and Sallie Zetterower.    

The zoning changes, which affect still-undetermined locations, will require bus-riding students to relocate to Sallie Zetterower, but allow each affected school to operate closer to an ideal capacity, said Greene.

“The superintendent and his cabinet recommended to the Board that the current Sallie Zetterower transportation zone be expanded in order to better utilize the new school's capacity,” she said.

Currently, Sallie Zetterower is operating at just 49 percent of its ability, according to Charles Wilson, Assistant Superintendent for Bulloch County Schools.

The zoning changes would move students from school’s currently operating at close-to-max capacity to Sallie Zetterower, in favor of evening populations, said Wilson.

“Right now, Brooklet is operating at about 80 percent capacity; Langston Chapel, about 85 percent, and Mill Creek is at 85 percent capacity,” he said – the numbers are based on how students are zoned, said Wilson. The figures could be higher if students attending schools they are not zoned for are counted.

“We have close to crowding capacity at some of these schools,” he said. “The objective here is to balance schools in terms of utilization. We want to have all schools in that 65 to 75 percent range.”

Plans to modify existing transportation zones have been in the works for nearly a year, according to Greene; it was determined in last year’s February meeting that changes were needed.

The new zones, according to officials, will apply only to bus-riders and elementary schools.

“The change only affects the elementary zones and students will remain in their original middle and high school zones, regardless if they are car or bus riders,” said Greene.

Students affected by a zone change will still have an option to attend their previous school.

“It is important to note: These are transportation zones and not attendance zones,” said Wilson. “You don’t have to go to the new school if you can provide your own transportation.”

According to Wilson, many options and locations regarding the changes have yet to be decided. It is too early to know how many students will be affected, he said.

“We’re still working on it. We have a bunch of information we are pulling together,” said Wilson. “We are still trying to come up with a solution that will balance the schools demographically, socio-economically and balance the capacity-use of the buildings.”

Tonight’s meeting will provide the board and the schools involved a chance to “recap, discuss and propose any tentative plans,” he said.

Whatever the final decision, new zones are hoped to be implemented by August 2011, according to Wilson.

The board, he said, is also working on zoning changes that will affect Julia P. Bryant Elementary to be implemented in 2012 – to correspond with the opening of the new Mattie Lively Elementary School.

Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454.

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