A larger middle school could translate into three elementary schools in the southwest corner of Cherokee County adding fifth-grade classes.
Parents of students who attend Bascomb Elementary School in Towne Lake were presented with this possibility by Cherokee County School District officials during its annual boundary focus group meeting on Tuesday.
District staff met with parents of E.T. Booth and Chapman Intermediate on Monday at Etowah High School.
A new Booth facility, with a capacity of 1,500, is slated to open in August and the district would like for the facility to encompass grades sixth through eighth.
That would mean rising fourth-grade students Boston, Bascomb and Oak Grove Elementary would attend fifth-grade at their respective schools. They would then move onto sixth grade at Booth. Clark Creek Elementary, which also feeds into Booth, opened this year with a fifth-grade class.
Boston, Bascomb and Oak Grove are the only elementary schools in the district that do not have a fifth-grade class.
Between 30 and 40 parents attended Tuesday’s meeting and most were receptive to the idea their children would finish out their elementary school career at Bascomb.
As of August 28, Bascomb had an enrollment of 926 and adding a fifth-grade class would bring its enrollment to around 1,086 when classes began in fall 2013, said Russ Sims, assistant superintendent for support services and facilities/construction management.
"This is a grassroots type effort," Sims told parents of the district's process. "We come in here to bring you the opportunity to give input on the circumstances of what's going on in your community. I like to make a community-based and a data-based decision."
Sims added the new Booth facility will be the largest middle school in the district. Parents also questioned whether the district would improve traffic flow on "Eagle Mountain," the nickname for the Booth, Chapman and Etowah campus. Sims noted district staff is reviewing the possibility of changing traffic patters that could ease congestion.
Parents did ask questions about how the district would handle transportation, which Sims said would be tackled when the district begins its annual fiscal year budget process.
Parents also asked what the future holds for the Chapman Intermediate building. The district has been mulling the possibility of utilizing the building as a ninth-grade center, but no final plans have been determined by the Cherokee County School Board.
One parent noted the district could possibly have over 1,600 students enrolled when the new facility opens.
Sims did say it's likely the district could have around 1,600 students enrolled once the new school opens, but added staff believe all students would be able to fit into the building without the use of portables. He said the district has been able to take advantage of the state granting waivers for larger class sizes.
Sims noted the district is still dealing with a boom in enrollment that hit the district in the mid-2000s when so-called "millennial babies" entered kindergarten. Those students are filtering through middle school and due to the economic hardship that started in late 2007, Sims said the district expects its future classes won't be as large.
Parent Ellie Bezella of Towne Lake, who has a third-grade child at Bascomb and a fifth grade child at Chapman, noted she the information was “presented very well,” but added she hoped Bascomb would be able to avoid the use of portable classrooms next school year.
Heather Lawless of Towne Lake, who also has two children at Bascomb, added she was also thankful for the district holding the meeting.
“We’re lucky the county has allowed us the chance to voice our opinions and I think they are truly listening,” she said.
The district holds boundary focus group meeting each year, which usually addresses the impact of new neighborhoods, population surges and whether adjustments to boundary lines need to be made to reduce overcrowding.
District staff will meet with Boston Elementary parents at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 at the school's cafeteria. The district plans to hold a second meeting with Chapman and Booth parents at 7 p.m. on Oct. 8 at Etowah High School.
The district also plans to meet with Ball Ground Elementary School parents at 7 p.m. Oct. 1 to discuss the facility's current grade configuration.
A public hearing on the proposed changes will be heard by the school board at 6 p.m. Nov. 1. The board is slated to consider approving the proposed changes at 7 p.m. Dec. 6. Both meetings will be held at the historic Canton High School's auditorium.