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Schools trying to prepare, adjust for student growth
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Parents had the opportunity to hear plans for a possible redistricting of the Guyton, Marlow and Sand Hill school districts Thursday night.

Superintendent Randy Shearouse addressed the parents at the meeting about the options currently being considered by the school board.

“I know that change can be difficult at times, and that’s something I know that all of you are going through right now as far as trying to look at different proposals, scenarios and looking at what’s best for your child,” he said.

Shearouse said the board wanted to hear from any parent who wanted to address the board. He told the audience the board wasn’t going to make a decision on school lines that night.

“They’re here to listen to what your comments are, and they’re not going to comment a lot back because this is fairly new for them, and they want to hear what you have to say about the proposed districts,” he said.

“We’re real proud of every school last year making (Adequate Yearly Progress),” Shearouse added. “I had the privilege of actually starting Sand Hill and had a lot of fun doing that. I was there for eight years. It’s a great school.”

Shearouse said the curriculum at all of the schools in the district are the same, and all have the same standards. He said that Effingham County is growing, and even though it has slowed this year, the county is still growing.

“We really anticipate growth continuing in the future,” he said.

The district has added on to both high schools, South Effingham Middle School, Ebenezer Middle School, Sand Hill Elementary School, and is preparing to build a new Effingham County Middle School.

“I’ve been surprised at Guyton Elementary because of the growth that has occurred because that has been a school that we really didn’t anticipate a lot of growth there,” Shearouse said.

Currently, there are 725 student at Guyton Elementary and 723 at Marlow Elementary. In 2003, Guyton had 532 students and Marlow had 571 students.

“Those are our two largest elementary schools,” Shearouse said. “Both of those schools are slated to handle 750 students.”

He said that Marlow has more room to grow than Guyton. Sand Hill has 438 students currently.

Shearouse said that even though the school has fewer students, it has almost the same level of administration as larger schools.

Shearouse said estimated changes with redistricting would make all the elementary schools roughly the same size and would leave some room to grow.

Schools transportation coordinator Jimmy Helmly  said Shearouse asked to look into scenarios of moving students from Guyton to Sand Hill and from Marlow to Sand Hill, they looked at several things, including areas on the fringes of the districts.

“We had some areas in the north of Marlow and south of Guyton area that had some confusion, and we wanted to clear some of those up,” Helmly said.

Helmly said another area is the change in student population since the beginning of the school year; both Marlow and Guyton have increased since the start of the year.

“Our society in Effingham County right now is very fluid,” he said. “People are moving out and moving in.”

Helmly said when looking at redistricting enrollment numbers, current areas of confusion in district lines and planned development were included in determining what areas to redistrict.

“We were projecting to even out the numbers of students — that’s why we were moving 100 from Guyton and 50 from Marlow to Sand Hill to bring everything more in line with the capacities of the schools and give us some area for growth at these schools in the future,” he said.

Helmly explained the three proposals that have been given to the board to consider to those in attendance. He also showed driving distance for students and said that most students would have a slightly shorter or approximately the same distance to travel to school.

The school system is running bus routes with from the Lonesome Oak and Warner Fields subdivisions with students from kindergarten through 12th grade on buses with a stop at Sand Hill Elementary.

“We could take those elementary students off the bus with the high school students and run a (k-5) route from these two areas to Sand Hill, then we would come back and run a middle and high (school students) route,” Helmly said.

“We’d like to do that in every chance we get, taking the elementary students off the high school buses.”

Shearouse said it is important to keep neighborhoods together.

“We believe in kids going to the same school if they live in the same neighborhood,” he said.