published Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Fairyland Elementary to accept Dade kids

  • photo
    Fairyland Elementary School on Lookout Mountain
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Fairyland Elementary School on Lookout Mountain in Walker County, Ga., will open its doors once again to students from neighboring Dade County.

"To get those kids back ... it's going to be a positive thing that we're looking forward to," school Principal Jeremy Roerdink said.

Until five years ago, the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade school accepted Dade County students. Then Georgia passed the school choice law, Roerdink said, which allowed parents to transfer children to schools inside a district for any reason, provided there was space for them.

School officials didn't want Dade County kids taking up space that Walker County students might want, so the district stopped accepting Dade students -- even though Fairyland Elementary is near the county border.

"From here, Dade County's just literally a block away," Roerdink said.

But hardly any Walker County students transferred to Fairyland.

"Since I've been here, we've had three or four, total," said Roerdink, who's been principal for three years.

Meanwhile, Fairyland's enrollment has dropped by about 35 percent, from 350 students five years ago to 229 now, officials said.

Over the summer, Roerdink discussed the idea of accepting Dade County students at Fairyland with new Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines. School district officials decided a week ago to open the school to Dade students. One parent had applied as of Friday, they said.

Dade County parents interested in having their children attend Fairyland need to fill out an application, available at the school office, and pay $400 in annual tuition per student.

Some grades at Fairyland, such as first and fourth grade, have more space for students than other grades, Roerdink said.

Dade County Schools Superintendent Shawn Tobin isn't concerned about Walker County taking students away from his district.

"We've got Walker County kids; it's not a big deal," Tobin said. "Most systems have kids from out of county."

He said both of Dade County's elementary schools are very good.

"I think we've got a pretty good product. We're not fearful of [students] leaving us," Tobin said. "Nobody's flocking out of here."

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.

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