South Point re-districting draws concerns

Published 12:33 pm Wednesday, November 19, 2008

John Sherman spent 30 years in the South Point school system, five as a teacher and the rest in administration at South Point Middle and High School. Now he’s on his second term as a member of the South Point school board.

But his resume wasn’t enough to sway the board when it came to the hot button issue of deciding what elementary students will go where next school year.

Monday night his voice was heard, but not listened to as he was the sole board member to vote against redistricting for the two elementary schools, now being built.

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This August when there are new buildings for Burlington and South Point elementaries, there will be some changes in the demographics of the student population as well. The board voted Monday to change the boundary lines of the two schools. That means 150 students on bus routes 11 and 6 and part of 14 will go to Burlington. Right now, they are students at South Point.

The reason for the change rests with a requirement by the Ohio School Facilities Commission, which is providing some of the funding and overseeing the construction of the schools. The commission requires a minimum enrollment of 350 in a school. However, there are currently only 254 students at Burlington but 617 at South Point Elementary.

The other option the board had to meet the commission’s terms was re-alignment where one school would hold all of the K-2 grades and other 3-5. With redistricting, both schools will have K-5 grades.

It was the re-alignment option that Sherman favored.

“The main thing is academically, it would be better for the students,” Sherman said a day after the meeting. “I thought academics should play the No. 1 priority. I think if you have all your teachers together in one building … these teachers can get together and collaborate and have a team meeting. … Your kids would be all together from K through. No new kids when you get to junior high. No competition between one school and the other. They would know everyone. I think we are the only school in the county that doesn’t do that.”

Also by choosing re-alignment, it would break down longstanding barriers between the two community schools, Sherman said.

“We have had a lot of years of that between South Point and Burlington,” he said.

“The last reason on redistricting is I don’t think they realize what a problem it will be every year. The boundaries will change. If they are not equal in the buildings, they will have to redistrict. You may have to change boundaries and have disputes. You are just going to have constant disputes.”

An informal survey of parents waiting for their children at South Point Elementary Tuesday afternoon showed the majority was against the change.

“I think it is going to be bad,” Laura Ward said. “As far as the 150, they are used to going here.”

Brenda McGuffin, who will have a child in the second and fifth grade next year, said she was worried about who the 150 would be.

“I could (have to be) at two places at the same time,” she said.

Jackie Rickard was concerned that a child who had been struggling academically and was gaining success now at one school would be adversely affected by the change.

“I think it will be bad for the kids in the system. They will lose all their friends,” she said. “Finally, they get adjusted to here, the kids who are struggling. It’s back to the beginning — struggling.”

A day after the meeting the school board maverick appeared philosophical about Monday night’s decision, even though it wasn’t what he wanted.

“The board has spoken. That is behind us now and we’re going to move forward,” Sherman said.