Hundred students may be rezoned to new school

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 21, 2007

COURTLAND—A shuffling of students among three existing schools would make Riverdale Elementary School the largest primary school in Southampton County when it opens next fall.

The School Board discussed plans at last week’s meeting that call for moving nearly 100 students from elementary schools other than the one being closed in Hunterdale into the new facility on Camp Parkway outside of Franklin.

The proposed new attendance zones would result in 92 students being moved from Nottoway Elementary School and six being moved from Meherrin Elementary School into the new 750-student building. Pre-school programs at Capron, Meherrin and Nottoway elementary schools also would be relocated to Riverdale.

Those students would join the 388 students from Hunterdale who will move to the new school, providing a total projected enrollment of about 570 children.

The biggest change, of course, will be for Hunterdale students, all of whom will be moved to Riverdale. With the loss of nearly a quarter of its students, though, things at Nottoway Elementary would also be different.

&uot;They’re maxed out right now,&uot; said William F. Grizzard, director of operations for Southampton’s public schools. &uot;This will give (Nottoway) room for flexibility.&uot;

Although Nottoway’s core facilities — its cafeteria and common areas — had been designed to accommodate up to 500 students, he said, the classroom space has been limited as guidelines governing classroom size have become more stringent since the school opened in 2001.

Riverdale, he added, would be less likely to face such problems, and its 750-student rating should hold. &uot;What we tried to do on this one was to clear up what people were talking about as far as capacity is concerned.&uot;

The school system has put a committee chaired by Grizzard and Director of Administration and Middle School Instruction Wayne K. Smith in charge of the transition to the new school.

Grizzard said Tuesday that one of the goals of the transition committee is to get children from the same neighborhoods attending the same school. Hence, all elementary-age children who live in Courtland and Darden Mill Estates will be moved to the new school, instead of being split between there and Nottoway, he said.

&uot;We didn’t want to have to separate one side of the street from the other side of the street,&uot; Grizzard explained.

A secondary benefit of that move would be to free up some space at Nottoway.

Another goal of the transition group is to settle on a new use for the Hunterdale school building.

Smith has proposed a program called &uot;Fresh Start.&uot; It would provide an alternative to long-term suspension or expulsion for disruptive students, as well as a special location for overage middle school students who need remediation before moving to high school.

&uot;The proposed alternative program meets a need which has grown out of the strict enforcement of the behavior codes of conduct and the growing number of over-age middle school students within the school system,&uot; Smith wrote in a recent memorandum to the School Board.

The transition committee will hold two public hearings early next month to present its plans for the new attendance zones and the Fresh Start program and to hear public comments and suggestions regarding both issues.

The first meeting is planned at Nottoway Elementary School on Dec. 3. A Hunterdale Elementary public hearing will follow on Dec. 4. Both meetings are set for 7 p.m.