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New school boundaries a hot topic

SUWANEE - About 700 people attended a public hearing Tuesday in which 34 Gwinnett County residents voiced their opinions about the proposed school boundaries within the Archer, Grayson, Lanier and North Gwinnett clusters.

The proposed boundaries for the Lanier cluster drew the most comments, with about a dozen people speaking in support of the district's current plan and about 12 others speaking in favor of a proposal created by Sugar Hill Mayor Gary Pirkle.

The school district has proposed that Riverside, Suwanee and Level Creek elementary schools feed into the new North Gwinnett Middle School on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. Those schools would be in the North Gwinnett cluster. Sugar Hill, Sycamore and the new White Oak elementary schools would feed into the new Lanier Middle School on Suwanee Dam Road, all of which would be in the Lanier cluster.

Pirkle suggests that the lines for the Lanier cluster be redrawn, with Sugar Hill, Suwanee and a new elementary school on Buford Highway feeding into the middle school on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.

Pirkle said he created this plan to eliminate socioeconomic disparity that would be created by splitting the North cluster along the district's proposed lines.

"The weight of dividing the North Gwinnett cluster is unequally borne by the Lanier cluster," he told the board. "All of Suwanee, Sugar Hill and unincorporated Gwinnett County have supported the growth and development of the North cluster. If it is to be divided, it should be done equally."

Suwanee resident Krista Yager spoke in support of the district's proposal. She said the district's plan "makes sense." Pirkle's proposal would result in overcrowding at the new high school from the first day, she said.

"A lot of effort goes into this (redistricting)," Yager said before the meeting. "With the district's plan, communities stay together. The alternate plan splits communities and neighborhoods apart."

Eleven people addressed the board about the attendance boundaries in the Archer and Grayson clusters. Many asked the board to consider the traffic congestion in the area and stressed that changes should be made to ensure the students' safety.

Associate Superintendent Bobby Crowson said board members and district staff have looked at all of the concerns raised by residents. The first priority, he said, is to balance school enrollment against a building's capacity.

"We cannot take as our first priority transportation, ... race, ... or economic situation," he said. "But do we listen to all constituents? Do we listen to what they tell us? Absolutely."

The board will have another public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Instructional Support Center at 437 Old Peachtree Road in Suwanee about the proposals for the Mill Creek and Mountain View clusters, as well as for the new Rosebud Elementary.

Community members are invited to speak about changes that would affect the following existing schools: Mill Creek High, Jones Middle, Osborne Middle, Duncan Creek Elementary, Fort Daniel Elementary, Freeman's Mill Elementary, Ivy Creek Elementary, Collins Hill High, Creekland Middle, Dyer Elementary, McKendree Elementary, Rock Springs Elementary, Taylor Elementary, Walnut Grove Elementary, Dacula Elementary, Magill Elementary, and Norton Elementary.