The $15 million school, for grades kindergarten through eighth, is under construction on U.S. 27 in Rock Spring. It has a capacity of 678 students but will begin with 500-550 students.
The redistricting draft, unveiled at a county Board of Education planning session Tuesday, Feb. 12, showed that the largest number of students for Saddle Ridge Elementary will come from Cherokee Ridge Elementary, superintendent of schools Damon Raines said at the planning session. (For detailed maps of the new districts, click here.)
North LaFayette and Rock Spring elementary schools also have a significant shift in students, based on the current criteria, Raines said.
The three existing middle schools in Walker County would begin next school year with approximately 550-575 students, he said.
Printed versions of the proposed redistricting map will be given to school principals, who have already given some suggestions as the planning began, which helped resolve some initial enrollment discrepancies.
For now, the biggest unknown variable is the number of incoming kindergartens for next year.
A large print version of the redistricting map will be displayed at each school in mid-March. School officials will then hold a town hall-style meeting to address parents’ concerns.
In drawing up the redistricting plan, a new mapping program was used, coupled with the school system’s Power Schools program, to balance the enrollment numbers of surrounding schools, while providing an initial number of students who will attend the new school in the fall.
“I think what we have come up with here, when you look at it from a bus route standpoint, makes geographic sense,” Raines said. “I think as people look at this, the (school) zones are going to make a lot more sense.”
One of the “driving” forces was to make certain bus routes are economized for efficiency, due to the rise in gas prices, Raines said.
The combined programs created a few versions of how the schools could be affected, which initially had flaws in how balanced the enrollments were for neighboring schools.
“When we started, we thought it would just impact a few schools, but it didn’t do that. It impacted (nearly all) schools,” Raines said. “As you start tweaking things to make sense for bus routes, then you tweak numbers at every school.”
About 6,600 students — or two-thirds of the school system’s students — are riding the buses that traverse Walker County, which is 446 square miles, Raines said.
After a few adjustments, one version of the plan balanced the elementary schools and even equalized the two high schools’ number of students. Ridgeland High School currently has about 150 more students than LaFayette High School, he said.
The schools’ enrollments balanced much better within each school, but officials noticed that the total enrollment numbers were incorrect.
Walker County schools’ technology coordinator Michael Tipton and network architect Bob Swanson had to manually enter 1,800 students that the program could not place.
For instance, several newer roads in the Fieldstone Farms subdivision on U.S. 27 in Rock Spring had not been updated to the map, which left a large number of children off the initial calculations.
Raines also wanted the redistricting to account for possible changes over the next decade, including a potential high school that would be located on the Saddle Ridge campus.
“We also have a future high school map built into this, where we would not have to redraw in the future,” Raines said.
Raines is familiar with the challenges of redistricting, since he previously dealt with a similar expansion while with the Catoosa County school system when Heritage High School opened in 2008.