Opinion: Recent changes raise new questions

Is it time to redistrict?


Fayette County Board of Education

Map of current school district zones. While McIntosh has a smaller geographical area than Sandy Creek, there are a lot more families in the McIntosh area. Plenty of changes have occurred involving Fayette County schools, but there has been little talk of redistricting to balance enrollment numbers at the high schools.

This school year has seen a multitude of changes with Dr. Regina Daigre providing new leadership on the Fayette County Board, new sports, and even increasing educational opportunities

The possibility of redistricting has also been rumored, although this change is unlikely to be as concrete as other recent developments.

There are around 7,000 high school students in Fayette County. McIntosh has the highest enrollment with 1,753 students, while Sandy Creek has the lowest with 1,178 students. In between those two are Starr’s Mill with 1,336 students, Whitewater with 1,368 students, and Fayette County with 1,362 students.

“[The discrepancy in the sizes of student populations] has to do with neighborhoods that have been built since the last redistricting, which was quite a few years ago,” McIntosh Principal Maggie Walls said. “We’ve added families, but we haven’t ever redistricted.”

The distance between Sandy Creek and McIntosh is about seven miles, yet there is a 500-student difference. McIntosh has already had to add additional classrooms as well as build a new middle school to accommodate the number of students in their zone. 

Student enrollment also impacts athletic competitions. According to the most recent Georgia High School Association reclassification, McIntosh competes in AAAAA while Sandy Creek competes in AAA. The other three public high schools in the county compete in AAAA.

We’ve added families, but we haven’t ever redistricted.

— McIntosh Principal Maggie Walls

“I don’t see [redistricting] as a negative,” Sandy Creek Principal Tosha Oliver said. “The more students that can come and experience what it means to be a Sandy Creek Patriot, I think is amazing.”

The process of redistricting would have to start with Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Patterson looking at the disproportionate school populations, then assembling a committee of Fayette County parents along with the County Transportation Director and the Assistant Superintendent of Operations to look at bus routes and zoning boundaries. 

After this, the superintendent would present the idea to the Board of Education, followed by a month-long deliberation period. If the Board votes yes, the superintendent would make a recommendation for approval of redistricting.

“[McIntosh] and their feeder schools have more students and the [Sandy Creek] complex has fewer students. The way to balance the schools would be to take students from [Peachtree City] and send them to the SCHS complex,” Fayette County Board of Education member Roy Rabold said. “This would take away from the spirit of a community school. In the past, prior to my coming to the board, this was discussed and the parents from PTC protested in the name of community schools.” 

[A]ny time you would like to change those lines, you would be impacting a lot of people.

— Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Patterson

Starting a community school or a city school has been discussed many times due to the growth of Peachtree City and Fayetteville. Originally, Fayette County High School was the only high school in the county. It soon became overcrowded, and that is when McIntosh was built in 1981. 

McIntosh also quickly became overcrowded, and there was a prediction that there would be growth in the north of the county, which led to Sandy Creek being built in 1991. The opening alleviated overcrowding at Fayette County High School and McIntosh. It was also the last time those district lines were drawn.

“People like the school they are going to and so anytime you would like to change those lines, you would be impacting a lot of people,” Dr. Patterson said. “But the size of our schools that happen to be smaller does impact us and has its limitations.”

Redistricting is a huge change and would cause a big shift in school numbers if it was acted upon. However, this has not been a popular cause. In years past, when redistricting was discussed, neighborhoods hired lawyers to combat the change. 

The most recent redrawing of school district lines occurred after FCBOE closed Brooks Elementary in 2013, which impacted the Starr’s Mill and Whitewater feeder patterns.

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