Opening the Muscogee County School District's newest school, Aaron Cohn Middle School, requires another round of attendance area rezoning.
The school board expects to vote on the administration's proposal in March so assignment letters can be sent by the end of April, but two public hearings in February will give folks the chance to voice their input before the plan is finalized.
Mike Hudson, the MCSD student services director, told the school board during its work session Monday that the goal is to have contiguous zones and move as few students as possible. The attendance zones of Blackmon, Fort and Midland middle schools would be changed. The proposal's numbers look like this:
Out of the district's 7,088 students projected to be in the middle grades next school year, approximately 800, or 11 percent, could be moved. That includes:
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250 rising sixth-graders, who haven't attended middle school yet. "Unless they have siblings," Hudson said, "it's not like they have any allegiance to a middle school."
259 rising eighth-graders, who can remain in their current school but would have to provide their own transportation to stay there.
286 rising seventh-graders, which amounts to only 4 percent of the total projected middle school students being forced to move from their current school.
MCSD plans to assign 574 students to the new school on Garrett Road in the county's northeastern panhandle. Aaron Cohn was a juvenile court judge for 46 years and earned a bronze star for his service in the U.S. Army during World War II. He died at 96 on July 4.
In the wake of last month's massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Mass., the MCSD is forming a task force to analyze its security.
MCSD interim superintendent John Phillips Jr. said he is friends with the superintendent of the district that contains Columbine High School in Colorado, where 12 students and one teacher were murdered 14 years ago.
"And he still hasn't gotten over it," he said.
Phillips appointed Gary Gibson, the superintendent's chief administrative assistant, to lead the task force, which will include public safety officials, principals, teachers, parents, high school students and MCSD security personnel. Phillips estimated it would take two months for a report to be submitted.
"I don't think it's important to have a lot of knee-jerk reactions," he said. "You'll see a lot of legislation coming out over the (Georgia General Assembly's) 40 days. It's happening all over the country. We want to do what's reasonable to make sure anyone on our property is in a safe haven."
The majority of parents and school leaders at Georgetown and Rigdon Road elementary schools have requested to drop their year-round schedules and join the rest of MCSD in the traditional school calendar.
Phillips said the central administration supports the recommendation. Officials say test scores aren't any better or worse at the year-round schools, and it costs the district more to keep them on a separate schedule.
The board will vote on the proposal during its next monthly meeting, 6 p.m. Jan. 22.
The word from Gov. Nathan Deal's office is that no reduction in K-12 funding will be proposed, Phillips said.
That's a relief after more than $120 million in cuts to MCSD the past 11 years. But with insurance rates going up for 6,000-plus employees, officials still might outsource more services, such as custodians at middle and high schools. That would save about $2 million over two years, Phillips said.
"As people retire or leave," he said, "we would try to look at the attrition rates and not hire full-time people but use part-time people."
MCSD chief human resources officer Don Cooper plans to retire in April.
"He's smiling," Phillips said. "It isn't a typo."