In February 2013, the board voted to move 33 students from the Franklin Road area to Park Street. They may vote this month to do the same for about 70 students living at the Autumn View apartments.
“We will be returning them back closer to their home school,” said Marietta school board chair Randy Weiner. “This is due to enrollment growing at Hickory Hills. They are maxed out of space. Park Street can absorb extra students.”
Autumn View apartments are at 1035 Franklin Road, just north of Delk Road.
The move would be a reversal of a previous redistricting. For the 2008-09 school year, 95 students from the same apartment complexes were moved from Park Street to Hickory Hills — which only had 254 students at the time — while Park Street was forced to use trailers for some of its 686 students, according to school system documents. Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck even proposed closing Hickory Hills in 2007 because of declining enrollment. But the board rejected Lembeck’s proposal, electing to keep the school open and transforming it into a school emphasizing an arts curriculum with classes in drama and dance.
With that situation reversed, the students are moving back.
Marietta schools officials pointed out the number of actual students being redistricted for a second time should be very low. According to the district, all of the students from the previous redraw have either moved or graduated to middle school.
Franklin Road is something of a construction hot spot right now. Two apartment complexes were bought by the city of Marietta recently to be torn down for redevelopment. Autumn View is not one of them, although more apartments are expected to be purchased by the city.
Lembeck said any redistricting has nothing to do with those construction plans. The only relationship between the two, said Lembeck, is families moving out of the apartments set for demolition has opened up more room at Park Street.
“Park Street may have students that will leave when those apartments are closed down,” said Lembeck. “I think they’ve had a few move already, but it’s hard to determine how many will move.”
Lembeck noted the first round of students moving from Hickory Hills to Park Street happened before renovation plans were ever discussed.
Another advantage pointed out by Lembeck is the students will live closer to their new school than to Hickory Hills.
Board member raises concerns
When students were moved from Hickory Hills to Park Street a year ago, the board voted 6-1 in favor. The lone “no” vote was Brett Bittner, who said he might have two objections to the move.
“I had a question about whether they had asked parents their thoughts or made them fully aware of their choices for going to Park Street,” said Bittner, also the board’s only Libertarian. “The answer I received was ‘no.’ One other thing that concerns me is this redistricting plan comes after Choice Academy applications closed (on Jan. 17).”
Choice Academy is a magnet-type program for students looking to learn about specialized areas such as art, leadership or communications. Each school offers only one of the programs.
Though not responding to Bittner directly, Lembeck said parents will have the chance to consult school board members and make public comments ahead of the vote.
The redistricting isn’t yet a done deal, as the school system is checking enrollment numbers to make sure the move is necessary. If it is, it will probably come to the board for a vote during its April 8 meeting or a special called meeting April 22, according to Weiner.
Newly-elected board member Jason Waters said the move isn’t just a good idea, but a “need” for the schools.
“Hickory Hills needs to be a neighborhood school again, serving its neighborhood. I am 100 percent for that,” he said. “I’m passionate about it. Hickory Hills and Whitlock Heights need a neighborhood school. It doesn’t do good for the kids to ride past two other schools to get to Hickory Hills. It costs us more time, more gas money and research will show you kids do better in neighborhood schools.”