SPRINGFIELD -- The lines on their faces told as much of the story as the lines on their maps.
Fully realizing that their decision wouldn't make everyone happy, the Effingham County Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved new zones for its elementary and middle schools that will take effect next year.
Board members, hoping they won't have to address the matter again for at least five years, worked on the maps for months. They conducted a trio of public hearings throughout the county to get parental input.
"The board allowed everyone to speak at these meetings," Superintendent Dr. Randy Shearouse said. "I think it went well, overall, but now it's time to make a decision. It's not something we want to do -- as far as moving students around -- but because of the growth we are experiencing in the county it is something we need to do."
The invocation at the start of the meeting indicated the gravity of the situation. Troy Alford, who represents District 2, mentioned the need for wisdom and understanding during his prayer.
Lamar Allen, board chairman, gave spectators one more time to comment on the matter before the vote. No one accepted the offer and the lines for the elementary schools were quickly approved.
Before the middle school vote, Beth Helmy, who represents Distrct 3, took the floor.
"This is just not an easy decision," she said. "Nobody is happy about some of the decisions that were made, constituents who were concerned, and we all had those concerns but we have X amount of people and X amount of people at this time."
After the vote and before taking up the next item on the agenda, Allen exhaled and said, "I'm so glad to get this over with."
Two proposals were under consideration for middle school zones. Shearouse recommended one that would give South Effingham Middle School approximately 871 students, 249 fewer than it currently has. The original proposal called for a reduction to 957.
Effingham County Middle School and Ebenezer Middle School will pick up the students lost to the new South Effingham lines.
According to the new map, Effingham County Middle School will grow from 861 students to 1,034. Ebenezer Middle School's enrollment will remain fairly steady at 911, up from 873.
A new school in Rincon this fall will help alleviate much of the system's growing pains at the elementary level. It can house up to 1,200 students. The current Rincon Elementary School has 772 students and will boast about 1,084 at the new location on Fort Howard Road.
Blandford, South Effingham, Marlow, Guyton and Ebenezer will have a few dozen fewer students this fall as a result of rezoning.
Sand Hill and Springhill will add about 100 students each.
School officials will consider hardship cases involving students adversely affected by the new lines.