OP-ED: Family “in a panic” over student transfers

During the Habersham County School Board’s monthly meeting on Monday, July 23, two parents voiced her opposition to the board’s decision to transfer 210 elementary students to different schools this year. Julia Braswell was one of the people who spoke. Her son, Colton, is among the students impacted. While the school system has refrained from referring to the move as “redistricting” Braswell and other parents argue that’s exactly what it is. This is a transcript of Braswell’s comments. The views expressed are hers.

“My goal tonight is to present to you a problem, a crisis, not my crisis, but the school system’s crisis. I also want to give examples of how unprofessionally this crisis was communicated to the parents. Finally, I will offer solutions.

On the Habersham County website you will (see) the statement as quoted by Superintendent Cooper: “In the Habersham county school system we work together as ONE team and we have ONE mission – that mission is success for ALL students.”

To be one team, and to work together means that when a decision to displace 210 students is made, you don’t try and minimalize it by calling it ‘minor adjustments’.

The impact of approximately 210 students is more than “minor” as Superintendent Cooper is quoted in the Now Habersham Online Newspaper on the April 17, 2018.

In that same article Cooper went on to say that this in not “redistricting”, but looks to be that way with that many people involved. As stated also on this date on Now Habersham, “at this point if any parent has not been contacted by their school, they will more than likely not be affected”; this was quoted in April, actually on April 17thbefore the Kindergarten registration which was held on April 24th.

It would have been a better effort at the April 24thevent to have this information available to parents.

I have read the reasons the county is redistricting-

  • Construction costs for renovating two schools [Woodville and Hazel Grove]
  • The need for attendance at certain schools as to not lose funding
  • The safety of children riding on school buses

I have been told when asking  (Mr. Cooper) on a telephone call about solutions to this crisis, “this will make it hard on families running to two different schools, and so most parents will give in and pull the other kids to have them at the same school that we want them at.”

I am a taxpayer, a state employee and a mother, I’ve lived in Habersham County for the last 35 years. And let me tell all of you – Your Crisis is NOT My Emergency.

Transportation

If the county wants to make school buses use a traffic signal rather than crossing a four-lane divided highway, then I offer the intersection of Tom Arrendale. This would provide a signal at the interchange! Buses that leave Hazel Grove and go to North Habersham Middle school, go down Hulsey Road and cross the four-lane to head to the middle school and also in the afternoons heading back to Hazel Grove Elementary.

What crash data did you use to decide that our buses weren’t navigating SR 365 safely?

School renovations at Hazel Grove and Woodville Elementary Schools

How was the decision made to fund these projects? What is the cost to benefit ratio? How about charging tuition for families that want to keep the school open?

Give me the justification for this spending- if the schools are low attendance, and dilapidated, the obvious choice would be to close them or rebuild within a fiscally responsible budget.

Before taking on these construction projects, why were more grants not being applied for? Funding secured through a special Tax “Splost tax” not presented to the community?

Poor planning, Poor Communications from the school system is unacceptable.

I understand the law allows local school boards the authority to reorganize the schools within its jurisdiction Georgia code 32-954. You may not be breaking law by doing this-but you are breaking up a community, you are breaking up families, and disrupting our lives.

I work full time out of county. My husband works full time out of county. We have two children Chloe, 10 and Colton 5, this is Colton’s first year of school- kindergarten We should be excited right now, school shopping and getting him ready for his new class and new teacher. But no, now my family is in a panic.

After receiving the denial letter for my son Colton to attend Hazel Grove, I was given no information of who to follow up with, no details as to where he will attend kindergarten. If it is at the school I suspect, that means transportation will be tough for my family.

This change that I had no control over, this redistricting, will affect my work, my daily schedule, and my family – splitting siblings between two elementary schools. And you would think that this means more than just a “number”, or is our children just that in the School Board’s eyes?

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