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AREA BOE MEETINGS: Parents ask for alternate redistricting

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

NORCROSS -- Parents from the Duluth cluster took advantage of Thursday evening's area school board meeting at Norcross High School to voice their concerns about the proposed redistricting of the Duluth and Peachtree Ridge clusters.

The speakers urged the members of the Gwinnett County Board of Education to adopt one of the alternative plans that have been developed by the school boundary committees.

Dianne Ogden, the co-president of the Duluth High School, said the current proposal developed by the school system's Planning Department doesn't address the objective of the redistricting: relieve overcrowding in the Peachtree Ridge cluster.

"Why only give us a fraction of the students needed to solve the problem?" Ogden asked during the area board meeting.

The current proposal would shift about 580 students from Mason Elementary, Hull Middle and Peachtree Ridge High to B.B. Harris Elementary, Duluth Middle and Duluth High. As a result of moving students from Mason to Harris, the proposal also calls for 120 students to be moved from Harris to Chesney Elementary.

Ogden and others who spoke said that proposal would barely make a dent in the overcrowding at Hull and Peachtree Ridge. The alternative plans, however, would do more to address the objective of the redistricting.

"We've really thought outside the box," Ogden said. "... I'm sorry to tell you I think we did (the Planning Department's) job better than they did."

By adopting one of the alternative proposals, the school board "can really heal some old wounds" that were created when the boundary lines for Peachtree Ridge were first formed, Ogden said. Many at the meeting said those lines created 10 years ago split the Duluth community.

"We simply want to bring our community back together, and you have the power to do that," Ogden said.

John Edgar, a teacher at Duluth High School, also urged the school board to adopt new boundary lines that would reunite the Duluth community.

Duluth High is one of the rare high schools in the county that had its inception with the birth of the city, Edgar said. The school was built in the heart of the city, and subdivisions grew around it.

But the redistricting when Peachtree Ridge was created split the community along the railroad tracks, Edgar said.

"It is the fervent hope of teachers of Duluth High School that the children of Duluth can return to Duluth," Edgar said. "... We would love the chance to teach all students of Duluth, not just kids from (one) side of the railroad tracks."

The final redistricting proposal is set to be released April 18. The school board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. April 20 on the recommendation. The board is set to vote on the boundary lines at its monthly meeting at 7 p.m. April 21.