UPDATE | Parents get a look at plans for new K-8 school in Augusta

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Thursday, January 10, 2018
News 12 @ 11

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Thursday marked the first of a dozen public hearings on Richmond County's rezoning plans. Parents got to take a look at plans for the school district to close some schools, open a few new ones, and shift school zones in other parts. They also got to hear from the board first hand on the plans.

The school district has already built its new K-8 school, hired a new principal, and have started interviewing staff. At the hearing, the school board explained why they think it's time for out with the old, and in with the new.

Southside Elementary opened its doors 52 years ago. A lot of memories have been made in its halls, but the students just aren't filling them anymore.

"It's designed to have 550 to 600 students, and they have a little under 300," said Kaden Jacobs, Director of Communications for the Richmond County School System.

A 300 student vacancy means less money for the school -- and fewer educational opportunities for its students.

"We receive funding from the state based on how many students are in a school," said Jacobs. "when you are under-enrolled like Southside is, you don't get full funding,"

The school board presented its solution to the problem. Combining three schools: Rollins, Southside, and the old Sego Middle School zone. Those three sections of students would go to the new k-8. Parents got a look at what's to come at that campus.

"What about teachers? Will they still have the same teachers?" said Melissa Briggs.

News 12 met Melissa Briggs on Wednesday. Her grandbabies go to Southside, and she has concerns about the shake up.

"The kids know their teachers and they have awesome teachers," said Briggs. "They have very awesome teachers. They call, and they check up on the kids..."

The school board says the new K-8 school will do what Southside does, and even more. Laptops for every student, or "one-to-one technology", a STEM curriculum, plus the brand new facilities.

While parents worry, the school board says the show must go on.

"We have built the school. so the school will open," said Jacobs.

While the school board is advocating for what the new schools will feature, the hearings are to explain to parents why they want to close certain schools or shift school zones. After two months of hearings, the board votes on the rezoning in March, hope to have open house at the new campuses in July, and kick off the new school year in August.

Wednesday, January 9, 2018

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Change is never easy, especially when it involves the youngest students in the Richmond County School System.

Richmond County school leaders expect to hear from parents of those students, starting this week. The first of a dozen public hearings on rezoning kicks off on Thursday. That hearing is focusing on Southside Elementary and its potential closure and where those students would go.

Southside and Windsor Spring are two of three elementary schools that could be closing its doors under the rezoning proposal.

As cars come to and from Southside Elementary School, the kids who live just behind the school -- and their parents -- love their little neighborhood.

"Parents watch the kids, take turns watching the kids, you know?" said Melissa Briggs. B

Briggs has grandchildren who go to Southside. Hearing it could be closing is a hard pill to swallow.

"It really is sad, and the kids love Southside," said Briggs. "You know it's right in the neighborhood, they can walk to it and they're safe,"

The school board is considering sending students from Southside and Rollins Elementary Schools to a new K-8 school called Sego-Rollins-Southside K-8. The students would be separated by grade level.

"You've got wings particular to each grade," said Kaden Jacobs, the Director of Communications for the Richmond County School System. "The kindergartners will be with the first graders and the second graders, and the middle schoolers will be down on other wings,"

But Briggs isn't so sure.

"I don't want my grandkids being exposed to stuff that they haven't been exposed to," said Briggs.

Windsor-Spring is facing a similar fate. Those students are set to move to Jamestown Elementary and Meadowbrook Elementary.

Parents say this kind of change can be hard on the students, and their teachers, too.

"If something's wrong, they're calling," Briggs said about her grandchildren's teachers. "If I need help with anything, they're helping. They don't need to do that to these kids or these teachers,"

When a school closes teachers don't just lose their jobs. They have the option of meeting with HR and listing where they want to go. When rezoning does happen, teachers often choose to move onto other opportunities or retire.

Some teachers choose to take part in the school system's "open transfer" process. They can transfer to other campuses so they can try to stay with their students.

The hearing starts at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 10, 2019 at Southside. If you can't make it to that hearing but your child goes there or is impacted by the plan, there's another hearing on January 16, 2019.

Here's a breakdown of the hearings:
Southside Closure: January 10/16@ Southside
Morgan Road Closure: January 24, February 5 @ Morgan Road
Windsor Spring Elementary: February 11/25 @ Windsor Spring
Rollins Closure: January 22, February 7 @ Rollins
Alt Ed Center at Lamar Closure: February 18/21 @ Alt Ed Center
NPU Changes: February 26 (Board of Education), February 28 (Hephzibah)

Officials say they do this rezoning to deal with population changes. For example, if a school is built for 650 students but is only housing 300, they move students to different schools to better use resources they have. Officials say that means more money going back into the classroom, and towards students.