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Kids cry at BOE decision
Redistricting vote leaves parents and students angry

SUWANEE - The Gwinnett County Board of Education made a decision Thursday that left about a dozen children in tears.

Board members unanimously agreed to accept Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks' recommendation to reverse a 2005 redistricting decision to send about 190 students from Five Forks Middle School to Crews Middle School, which both feed into Brookwood High School.

The plan that was passed two years ago was supposed to go into effect this August when Crews' 10-classroom addition opened. The decision was based on projected numbers that have since changed, and Wilbanks said the 2005 plan would have kept Crews' students in trailers - even after the addition opened - while Five Forks would have empty classrooms.

Students who were moved from Gwin Oaks Elementary to Craig Elementary in anticipation of the move to Crews were upset at the news that they will be going to Five Forks.

"It's horrible," Craig Elementary student Samantha Montigny, 11, said, "because I have to leave all my friends. One of my best friends will be going to Crews. It's not fair. I don't care that I would be in a trailer. I don't want to be separated from them."

Samantha and several other students cried as they huddled together outside of the room where the board's regular monthly business meeting was taking place.

"We're kids with feelings," Five Forks student Avery White said. "We're not just numbers."

Nearly 50 people who live in the Cricket Hill, Oak Manor and Primrose subdivisions, all wearing red, attended Thursday's meeting to ask the board to consider sending the 41 students in their neighborhoods to Crews.

The group was visibly outraged when the board members cast their votes. One woman shouted, "Shame on you. Shame on you."

Kay Nelson, who lives in the Cricket Hill subdivision, said she questioned whether the school district acted in the best interest of the children. Parents only found out about the upcoming vote after reading a notice on the PTA's Web site.

Several people voiced concerns that the board did not hold a public hearing about the change.

Wilbanks said this isn't the first time the school district has made a change to a redistricting plan without holding a public hearing first. He also said it's rare for an elementary school to feed into two different middle schools, which is what will happen as the result of Thursday's vote.

After the meeting, Wilbanks said he understood the parents' frustration. The district looked at all the possibilities before making its recommendation, he said.

Board member Robert McClure, who represents many of the affected schools, said during the meeting that he had hoped a compromise could have been made.

"It's a very disappointing moment to me in more ways than one," McClure said, adding that he didn't believe a compromise would be possible.

Board members also voted Thursday to make a change that will send 14 students from the Meadowcreek cluster to the Parkview cluster.