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School system looks at middle school shift
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The Effingham County Board of Education is currently reviewing a recommendation to redistrict the middle school population at Ebenezer Middle School.

The recommendation calls for 200 students to be redistributed between Effingham County Middle School and South Effingham Middle School.

“We wanted to even these schools’ enrollment out so we would have room for growth in all three of them,” said Jimmy Helmly, transportation coordinator for the BoE who submitted the recommendation.

With 1,052 students, EMS has seen the fastest middle school growth of in the county the past three years — adding 10 since students returned from the holidays — and is at capacity, in terms of classrooms being used. While SEMS and ECMS can hold 1,200 students, EMS has room for 1,120.

The proposal suggests 36 students currently in the south corner of the EMS district who attended South Effingham Elementary School attend SEMS. One hundred sixty eight students who live west of the CSX railroad tracks from Willowpeg Creek to the Stillwell railroad crossing and west to Mock Road and Highway 119 to the intersection of Turkey Branch and Ebenezer Creek will go to ECMS.

The new districting would put EMS at 848 students, ECMS at 883 and SEMS at 951, giving the facilities available capacities for growth of 272, 249 and 317 respectively.

“These number, based on growth, we thought we’d survive for a little while with this and not have to worry about it for quite some while,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse.

Helmly said they also surveyed the area north of Cletus Gnann Road extending north of the Stillwell railroad tracks and northwest of Turkey Branch Road and Ebenezer Creek, but saw it illogical to move students from this area. Mose Mock, the newest BoE member, questioned whether the approximately 50 students living in this area couldn’t be moved as well.

Shearouse said that that was to even out the populations between the three middle schools.

“We were tasked with looking for 200 students,” said Helmly, “and this is the most concentrated area that I could get 200 from is the reason I’ve done that.

He also said that the students affected by this proposed redistricting would not be traveling more than a few miles more to and from school.

The board listenened to public comment on the matter at its Feb. 2 meeting. The matter will be open for comment again at the Feb. 17 meeting at 7 p.m., which will be held at ECMS to give parents an opportunity to see the school. The board will vote on the recommendation at that time.

“This is what we felt was the right number to have at each school,” said Shearouse, adding that they would be open to adjustments if there were a need.