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DCSS makes zoning exception after school closings

From left, Monroe High Principal Vinson Davis, Albany High Principal Rodney Bullard and Westover High Principal William Chunn attend a special called meeting of the Dougherty County School Board Friday during a rezoning hearing. The Board approved allowing rising seniors and Georgia High School Association participants in grades 10-12 to choose between remaining at their old high schools or attend the school in their new zones.

From left, Monroe High Principal Vinson Davis, Albany High Principal Rodney Bullard and Westover High Principal William Chunn attend a special called meeting of the Dougherty County School Board Friday during a rezoning hearing. The Board approved allowing rising seniors and Georgia High School Association participants in grades 10-12 to choose between remaining at their old high schools or attend the school in their new zones.

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County School Board held a special called meeting Friday at which the board, with one abstention, approved allowing rising high school seniors to attend the school in which they completed their junior years.

Last spring, the Board of Education approved a school closure and consolidation plan that made reworking of all the system's school zones a necessity. Although none of the district's four high schools was closed, other closures made it necessary to adjust high school attendance zones.

The impetus of the board's move was a sliver of land at Cromartie Beach that was previously zoned to Albany High School but is now zoned for Dougherty High.

The new zone affected several Albany High athletes who wanted to finish their high school sports careers at Albany instead of Dougherty. A similar situation existed with nearly 200 students from Monroe who were rezoned to Westover.

The board will also allow all students in grades 10-12 who are current student-athletes or plan to participate in any Georgia High School Association activity to remain at their old schools.

The system set a July 26 deadline for parents to sign a letter indicating the intent of their students to remain with their old school or play for their new school.

Parents are advised to contact the DCSS to obtain a copy of the letter of intent.

The issue, primarily driven by athletics, was discussed by the board on Monday, but DCSS Athletic Director Johnny Seabrooks insisted that according to his understanding of GHSA rules, "You play where you stay."

In other words, students must play for the school in which they are currently zoned. The board, however, instructed Seabrooks to call the GHSA and ask for options.

"As it turned out, they (GHSA) have a provision in regard to rezoning which is very similar to when a new school is built where students have a choice of which school to attend," Seabrooks said. "I was also told that the exception must be approved by the local school board and that parents must sign a letter indicating a choice; otherwise they will play at their new school."

The board voted 4-0 to approve the exception. Velvet Riggins, who is the mother of an Albany High athlete, abstained. Darrel Ealum and Milton "June Bug" Griffin were absent.

Officials also said at the meeting they want parents to be aware of some critical events and dates to assure a smooth start to the 2013-14 school year:

-- July 22-31: Student Registration in all schools between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily.

-- Thursday, August 1: Open House in all schools

4 p.m.-6 p.m. for elementary schools

5 p.m.-7 p.m. for middle schools

6 p.m.-8 p.m. for ninth-graders and students new to high school in all grades.

-- Monday, August 5: School Begins

Beginning bell times

8 a.m. -- elementary day begins

8:15 a.m. -- middle school day begins

8:45 a.m. -- high school day begins