FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Traditions, rivalries and community relationships make school redistricting is a touchy subject.
But for the Three Chimneys Farm community, it’s more than a feeling. It’s proximity.
Three Chimneys residents live across the street, roughly a half mile, from Lambert High School, and they fear redistricting may shut them out.
On Sept. 12, the Forsyth County Schools Redistricting Committee presented a draft redistricting map to the Board of Education which showed those children attending South Forsyth High School about six miles away.
The proposal has these residents upset because they have been attached to Lambert since it opened in 2009.
Parents, including Jennifer Aase, arranged an event called Walk to Lambert on Sept. 19 to show solidarity and prove their neighborhood’s walkability to the school because of a trail that leads them to its campus.
Aase’s daughter, Caroline, is a 10th grader at Lambert and has walked the route every day.
“We want to show the Board of Education Three Chimneys Farm is so close to Lambert that students can walk,” Aase said. “Therefore, they should not be redistricted to a school much farther away that requires transportation by bus or car and increases traffic and safety concerns for our local area.”
There have been multiple meetings held by the neighborhood since they learned of the preliminary plan, including one session held with the Board of Education.
Forsyth County Commissioner for District 5 Laura Semanson lives in the neighborhood and has a child who attends Lambert and another she hopes will, too.
She said the redistricting “completely fractures the neighborhood,” which is also split into two Board of Education and Board of Commission districts.
She said the students in the neighborhood are raised to “be Longhorns,” the Lambert mascot.
Additionally, the redistricting will interfere with the original intended feeder pattern for Lambert, she said.
Deputy Superintendent of Schools Joey Pirkle has spearheaded the redistricting process for the county. He is also on the committee that works on the process, including various department heads.
Redistricting is nothing new for the county and committee, Pirkle said, and they follow certain parameters for decisions to populate a new school. In this case, it’s Denmark High School which opens next fall.
Those parameters include keeping feeder patterns consistent when possible, which he said they spend a lot of time doing.
“We have to keep that in mind when we’re looking at students and where they move from certain areas, current enrollment and future projections,” Pirkle said. “The entire process is data driven by study area. It’s a fluid process. We’re looking at the study areas and keeping the other parameters in mind when we look at what we create for a first map to send out.”
That first map ignited the response by Three Chimneys. However, Pirkle said they don’t specifically look at the number of students in a subdivision because some students don’t live in a subdivision.
Instead, the committee studies general areas with student populations throughout the distict.
A large portion of that data includes how congested the southern portion of the county is, a factor all sides agree on.
Pirkle said that will help populate the new school, but Semanson said it will just create even more traffic in the area.
“They’re putting teen drivers in harm’s way for an unnecessary distance to take them all the way to South Forsyth,” Semanson said. “The ones who do take a bus will go from a 20 minute to 45 minute ride sitting in the most congested corridor. It seems to have failed by every metric that’s used to determine which schools and communities are separated.”
All of the Three Chimneys and other feedback the district has received is helpful, Pirkle said, and is exactly what the committee wants to hear to determine the next steps.
The district created a survey to garner more input and will present possible revisions to the map based on that feedback at 4 p.m. Oct. 10 before the Board Of Education.
“In the first draft we sent out, it was in the best interest of the district to move the areas we moved,” Pirkle said. “I have to do what’s best for the district that’s growing at such a rapid rate. We either don’t build schools and pile on trailers and deal with that, or we build schools and somebody has to go there.”