By C. Julia Nelson

The last thing Jordan Helton, 6, wants to do is leave her Brownie troop.

Her parents chose their home specifically because they knew their child would eventually attend Heards Ferry Elementary. Now based on the proposed redistricting of Fulton County School District elementary schools in Sandy Springs, Jordan’s neighborhood has been split and four students would have to transfer from Heards Ferry to the new Lake Forrest Elementary School.

While many children are facing the scary prospect of attending a new school next fall due to redistricting, the board is preparing to make a final decision on how the attendance zones of the five existing and two new elementary schools in Sandy Springs will be reorganized to provide overcrowding relief.

After more than six months of considering multiple solutions, hosting community forums and fielding comments, Patrick Burke, director of planning for the district, proposed a variation of Plan A as the most effective plan for the community.

“Some schools will receive relief sooner than others,” Burke said during the Jan. 8 board work session. “In determining capacity we evaluate the number of classrooms in the building and the projected classroom need based upon the proposed attendance boundary as well as the programs for the population we serve and center-based populations.”

The Proposed Plan

The plan encompasses two new schools to provide the overcrowding relief. Lake Forrest will be located at the intersection of Lake Forrest Drive and Cliftwood Drive; this one is under construction and scheduled to open this fall. Ison Road Elementary will not open until the 2009-10 school year.

Staff recommendations give Heards Ferry and High Point the first wave of overcrowding relief. About 600 students combined from these two will attend Lake Forrest in 2008-09.

In 2009-10 Ison Road would provide relief to Dunwoody Springs Charter, Woodland Charter and Spalding Drive Charter elementary schools.

Heards Ferry Elementary

Heards Ferry students who would head to Lake Forrest include those who live east of Mount Vernon Drive and north of I-285 as well as southeast of Lake Forrest Drive; this includes the Lancaster neighborhood. Additionally, students west of the intersection of Boylston Drive and Hammond Drive and on Northwood Drive, including Sierra Place and Highland Circle, would be redirected to Lake Forrest.

A few unique situations require some students to relocate from Heards Ferry to High Point. Students living east of Boylston Drive and north of Hammond Drive would be affected based on the development of a new neighborhood association in that area. All transfers would be effective as of fall 2008.

Currently enrollment at Heards Ferry is 588 students. Based on the recommendation, projected enrollment would drop to about 399 students for the 2008-09 school year and 432 in 2009-10.

High Point Elementary

All High Point students impacted by the redistricting would transfer only to Lake Forrest in fall 2008. Students living along Lake Placid Drive on either side of Roswell Road would be transferred as well as those on Carpenter Drive, east of Roswell Road; these include the Caliber Springs, Charleston Square, Lake Placid, The Mission and Park Terrace neighborhoods. Students living along Roswell Road north of Maryeanna Drive including those at Southern Trace would also be impacted.

Projected enrollment numbers at High Point in 2008-09 and 2009-10 are 544 and 567, respectively; currently High Point serves 815 students.

Spalding Drive Charter

Spalding Drive Charter Elementary students would be split among Heards Ferry in fall 2008, Ison Road in fall 2009 and Woodland Charter Elementary also in fall 2009.

The first round of students to transfer to Heards Ferry would include those that live east of the intersection of Colewood Way and River Valley Road and west of Johnson Ferry Road including the Montaire Estates.

Students bound for Woodland Charter include those who live to the east of Roswell Road and south of Spalding Drive, including The Lodge at Sandy Springs. Additionally, students north of Trowbridge Road including the Commons at Victoria, Dunwoody Square, Princeton Falls, Victoria Heights and Victoria Parks will also head to Woodland in fall 2009.

Students living near Cimarron Parkway and east of Roswell Road at Morgan Falls, including those at Harbor Pointe, would transfer to Ison Road.

Today, enrollment at Spalding is 692. Enrollment projections for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years are 689 and 403 students, respectively.

Woodland Charter Elementary

All students transferring from Woodland would attend Ison Road starting in fall 2009.

Woodland students northwest of Morgan Falls, off Roswell Road who live in Barrington Canyon, Colonial Grand, Grogans Bluff, Huntcliff, Jasmine, Spring Creek and Windridge would be transferred. Additionally, those on both sides of Pitts Road between Roswell Road and GA-400, including Shadow Pines, Park at Dunwoody and Dunwoody Point would also have to transfer.

Dunwoody Springs Charter

Dunwoody students who live south of Dunwoody Place Drive and west of GA-400 would relocate to Ison Road Elementary. Neighborhoods included in this area are Legacy Key, Northridge Crossing, Emperian/Northridge, Dunwoody Springs and Alara.

Lake Forrest Elementary

The new 130,000 square foot elementary school will be a three story building with the capacity to hold 850 students. The complex will include 54 classrooms, a media center, playgrounds and a couple athletic fields among other amenities. Construction is underway and scheduled to be finished by the beginning of the 2008-09 school year.

Ison Road Elementary

Proposed as Sandy Spring’s next elementary school to be built, this project has an anticipated bid date of January 2008. The school is still in the design and planning phase and completion of this project is estimated to be done by August 2009. The first round of students will attend Ison Road during the 2009-10 academic year.

Next Step

According to Susan Hale, communication project manager for the district, the board is scheduled to vote on the proposed plan at its meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21 at Dunwoody Springs Charter Elementary School, located at 8100 Roberts Drive. The board will also meet for a work session on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the Fulton County Schools’ administration center, located at 786 Cleveland Avenue S.W.

No matter the board’s final decision, not everyone will be pleased with the outcome.

As a first-grader with an established community of friends at her school and in her neighborhood, Jordan’s world may be turned upside down for the sake of redistricting. Helton’s mother, Amy Helton, addressed board members at the Jan. 17 meeting to ask them to reconsider the current proposal or make an exception for these few children.

“We’re asking to keep those students at Heards Ferry; there’s only four and we’re the only tiny neighborhood west of Lake Forrest being excluded,” she said. “It’s unacceptable that these four children are not being allowed to stay at their home school. It would do nothing to the enrollment at Heards Ferry to keep them where they already are.”

Helton hopes the board will compromise with special cases such as hers. She said even if it meant the parents would have to provide transportation to make it work, a compromise would be appreciated.

“If the board says no (to her request), then a compromise would be acceptable to allow those children to complete their time at Heards Ferry,” Helton said.