Dalton: Park Creek School future argued

Dalton: Park Creek School future argued

June 14th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

Lizbeth Arreguin, right, and others hold signs in front of Dalton City Hall to protest plans to turn Park Creek Elementary School into a sixth-grade academy in this file photo.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

DALTON, Ga. - Changing Park Creek School to a sixth-grade academy not only would displace more than 700 students at the school, it also would mean rezoning students in other elementary schools.

"Everyone's lives will be changed - if your children aren't moved, their friends will be," Maria Oceguera said at the school board meeting Monday evening. "The children are constantly bounced around like pingpong balls. These children are people, not numbers on a graph."

The Park Creek proposal emerged last month as the board-favored way to address overcrowding at the middle school. Other suggestions from a committee are keeping all sixth-graders in their current schools and creating a kindergarten through eighth-grade school at City Park School. That school is currently a kindergarten through fifth-grade school.

The academy proposal likely would cost more than $5 million, while keeping sixth-graders in their perspective schools would cost about $3.5 million, officials said.

Even though the board did not vote on the issue in their meeting Monday, hundreds of Park Creek parents and staff crowded into Dalton City Hall, filling every seat and lining the walls. About a dozen parents and students pleaded with the board to take more time in making a decision.

Board Chairman Steve Williams said he did not know what the impact to other elementary schools would be but acknowledged that at least some students would be rezoned. Districts likely would be shifted west and south, he said.

The last major rezoning for Dalton schools was about eight years ago, and some schools have had some rezoning since then.

"No decisions have been made," Williams told the crowd. "But whatever option we take it is going to involve displacing some students. I wish it didn't, but it will."

A committee has been appointed to study the impact of the various proposals and likely will present its findings to the board before the July meeting, board members said. No deadline has been set for a final decision.

Board member Rick Fromm said members could make a decision whether to ask for a special purpose local option sales tax without deciding on a plan because all the options will require capital funding. A SPLOST decision must be made by August.

Another factor is the reported fall in the Hispanic population because of tougher immigration laws that go into affect this year, Williams said.

"Come August, we don't know who will be left, and there is really no way of knowing until then," he said.

But Fromm said the overcrowding at the middle school did not give the board the luxury of waiting to see what happens.

"It is only prudent to see what our options are," he said. "It is a difficult decision. There are pros and cons to each."

Contact Mariann Martin at 706-980-5824 or mmartin@timesfreepress.com