Letter to the Editor: Barrow County School System Changes are Mind Blowing

A Bethlehem resident says her sixth-grader can no longer ride a bus to and from school because the family lives too close to the school.


I am a concerned parent and resident of Barrow County, I have resided for the past three years in Bethlehem. My children are 7 and 11 years of age. My youngest is a current student at , my oldest will go to this year. For the most part I have had no complaints about the education they have provided thus far. However, this year has absolutely blown my mind with all the changes.

I was appalled at the decision to , regardless of what other counties are doing, this is a decision that is not in the best interest of our children.

I spoke at that time, around May, with Dr. Wanda Creel. She had no news to provide me that was acceptable. I understand the decision was based on our lack of funds and the current debt … but this “solution” that will reduce the debt by approximately $450,000 per year will effectively put our debt at zero in 22 years.

I can do nothing, again about this decision. I am a working parent, with a full time job. I have no family in this state to help. I have had to employ some assistance with my neighbor to help with the new school hours that have also been put into effect. Now my elementary school child will not get out of school until 3:30 p.m., which means she starts later as well. I have to be at work in Athens at 8 a.m., a full 30 minutes before school even starts. So in order to get her to school, I can no longer take her, as I have in the past, but leave her with my neighbor to ride the bus.

Today I learned that my other child, who will go to 6th grade this year, is not eligible to ride the bus because we live too close to the school. I have spoken, today, with Executive Director Dr. Chris McMichael. He informed me that this information is accurate. I have, once again, been put in a position to decide how my child will get home from school, as there is no after school at this level, and she cannot ride the bus and I will be at work. 

The road, Haymon Morris Road, on which my 11 year old child would have to walk home has no side walk and is very busy with traffic. There are no plans to put in a side walk, and no other options presented for this issue. I have a mortgage that I pay every month, and taxes to Barrow County, and my children deserve a better solution. I do not know where else to turn for help.

The only other solution I know of is to have a parent at home that doesn’t work a job outside the house. This probably isn’t a feasible solution for myself or most of the other parents. I have tried to talk with those at the school board, to no avail. I was told I could read about these decisions in the paper or online, that nothing is done in secret. I am on the e-mail list for the school board and have received nothing about any of this.

Further, I am outraged that it was suggested by Dr. McMichael that my child go ahead and walk down a road where there is no sidewalk, this a dangerous and unacceptable idea for a child, any child. What can we parents do??? Thank you for listening, I hope there are enough parents who will state how these changes are affecting them, and we can make a change. And something else, not to be overlooked, these are ELECTED OFFICIALS, and this job can be done by someone else who might care about these issues.

Nicole McIntyre
Bethlehem, Ga.

The opinions expressed above are those of the writer, not Barow Patch. Barrow Patch will accept letters to the editor discussing current local issues. Letters should be addressed to the editor and not to third parties. All letters must have the name of the author and contact information, such as a phone number or e-mail address. Contact information will not be published and will be used for verification purposes only. Letters should express the thoughts of the writer. Copied content will not be published. All letters are subject to editing for length, clarity and factual accuracy. Barrow Patch reserves the right to reject letters that do not comply with our site’s acceptable use policy. Letters may be submitted via email to barrow@patch.com.

Nicole McIntyre August 03, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Oh, I'm so glad to see you'll be there!
TB August 03, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I'm going to just put this out there- because it really only took a little time to research. I agree Barrow County needs more sidewalks, but why are people waiting until now (when school is about to start) to complain about this transportation decision? A memo with this decision was available on 5/01/12! How many school board meetings could you have attended to question this? People need to learn how to stay informed about things that will affect their children - and not just wait to complain about it later!
mollyrose August 03, 2012 at 08:21 PM
How the heck did you force them to sign your document? Not that I disagree with you but it was stupid of the head of the bus department to sign to appease you. You know it will never stand up in court don't you?
mollyrose August 03, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I am a grown able-bodied woman but I would not walk 1-1/2 miles to my work on these ill-maintained roads in Barrow Co. The weeds are halfway to my knees even on the best roads. Chiggers, fleas, mosquitos, sorts of icky critters waiting to sink their teeth into my skin. Why would I want my 5 year old walking to school just so the idiots on this board wouldn't call them lazy and fat? It is no 1940 any more, folks.
Nicole McIntyre August 03, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Where did you find this memo? I will be honest in telling you that I learned this information about the bus changes from the Dept. of Transportation. I still have not received any emails or recorded phone messages. And it wouldn't have occurred to me that there would be such a change. I have not attended these meetings because up until this year I have been satisfied with the education system provided. However, that will not be the case going forward.
TB August 03, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Page 6 of the below PDF talks about the transportation issue as will be affected this school year. This was done on 5/01/12 and as you can see from the web address is linked directly to the Barrow County Schools website. I am not in anyway condoning the decisions made, but people need to take responsibility of themselves to stay informed. No one owes you a letter or email everytime changes are made. (If you asked directly that's different). Like most people say they we're fine with everything up to this point, but whether we agree with it or not changes do happen and if you are not there right away to show them you're not happy (since they are elected) - you don't get a lot of sympathy from me. http://www.barrow.k12.ga.us/business/FY_2013_General_Fund_Budget_Information.pdf
Marne M August 03, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I don't see any reason to discourage people from being involved now, whether or not you think it is "too late." There may be any number of reasons that people missed the memo in May, but that doesn't diminish the present safety concerns. My oldest child is only in 1st grade, and not even affected by this mandate yet. We haven't really had cause to be active up until this point, but I'm going to the meeting anyway. Maybe it will encourage people to be more involved in the future. So you're not sympathetic. Fine. I am. I will be there.
Nicole McIntyre August 03, 2012 at 10:03 PM
The subject and point of all this is the safety of our children, not how informed I am or am not. There are many calls made to inform parents of fundraisers, snow days, etc. The way that we were "informed" was certainly not very effective, for such a significant change. I do not wish to argue with anyone, I only wish to do the best I can to take care of my children.
Nicole McIntyre August 03, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Thank you Marne M!! See you Tuesday!
JDW August 03, 2012 at 10:09 PM
The final budget discussions took place this last Monday. It was then when some concerns were raised about this issue. Two of the members said the same concerns that we are all bringing up now. To no avail, the budget was passed. Read the article in the Thursday Barrow Journal. There was also discussions about coaches driving the athletes to games too.
Lori August 03, 2012 at 10:26 PM
I am, as of right now, a Walton County resident. My son goes to school 1 mile from where we live at Bay Creek Elementary. We plan to move to Appalachee HS school district by next summer. I taught in Gwinnett County for 3 years. Let me divide my thoughts: 1. When my son was going to school last year for the 1st time, (he went to private kindergarten and last year was his first year) and I saw the schedule, I was very worried. I was working at the time, but I was fortunate to have my mom & dad be able to watch him. I left at 7:00 am and did not get home until 7:00 pm, including Saturdays. After being used to Gwinnett County's schedule - "normal" hours - It was something I thought was going to be hard to adjust. HOWEVER, when we determined we are moving to Barrow County, the first thing I did was look at the hours and schedule and I was EXCITED to see the same times. 8:30 - 3:30. BCES does offer a before & after school care for working parents. I am also allowed to drop him off as early as 8:00 as a "normal" parent drop off. I do sub at a preschool and that works perfect for those days. It is an adjustment, but, I am sure, something will work out for y'all. It may seem like a big adjustment now, but it really is not. I know 30 minutes to a boss is a lot. Hopefully, bosses will understand OR you can find a neighbor that does not work that you feel comfortable leaving your child with. Even non-working moms, have to adjust to this time as well.
Lori August 03, 2012 at 10:26 PM
2. This bus deal, is STUPID!!!!! We were sent a letter (here in Walton) saying we lived too close, however, they would still pick up with limited bus stops. That is better than not picking up at all. That is one suggestion that y'all could give to the Board. You may have to walk a few houses down, but at least it would not be the entire length to the school. When we were driving down Haymon-Morris to look at houses - I WOULD NOT walk down that road myself, let alone let my 7 year old walk down that road. Eventhough, I take & pick up my son, I feel for all the parents who are having to face that fact that your child may have to walk. I live a mile with no side walks and grassy area as well. I do not allow my son to walk now, and I will not allow him to walk when we move to the Appalachee area.
TB August 03, 2012 at 10:31 PM
You are right- it is never "too late" to raise concerns for your child's safety. But it does seem a little funny to be freaking out about it now- like this plan was just pulled out of thin air. The subject now may be your child's safety, because you are reaching the end of the line with school starting this month. It's funny- you read posts and everybody is "fine with everything until this point"- then It comes as such a shock when procedure changes. I do hope people learn to make themselves more informed- and that is one thing I've learned about living in Barrow County (I graduated from AHS in 2003)- it is so important to keep yourself in the loop (even if you think "everything is fine").
JDW August 03, 2012 at 11:10 PM
You can make a petition at change.org for free, and not have to pay to sign it
JDW August 03, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Change.org, free petition, and free of charge.
Deanna Allen August 03, 2012 at 11:15 PM
CLARIFICATION: There is no donation required to sign the petition. While it is requested after you add your name and comments, it is not required to sign.
B August 04, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Please understand that the PRZ is not a new policy or rule; the system just now finds that it has to enact it............thats exactly how barrow county states it. does this mean the prz is a bit like the draft? wont use it til we have to. that doesnt make it fair but it would have been nice to know it was even possible. also would have been nice to know sooner. alot sooner.
Barrow Native August 04, 2012 at 04:42 AM
As a Barrow teacher, I must comment anonymously, out of fear. I think this transportation change is ridiculous. Dangerous doesn't even begin to describe this. I am immensely proud to see a group of informed, concerned, level-headed parents, such as yourselves, presenting a united front. Sadly, I think your efforts will be in vain....but I'm still hoping and praying for change. On another note, I would like to say to Barrow Co. voters, "You blew it!" You had a chance to get incumbent Mitch Churchill off the board. There was a chance for authentic change and the voters just blew it! Another four years of status-quo, stale incumbents voting for these *very* decisions we are discussing. Parents, stand your ground. Don't back down. As emotionally charged as this is, try to remain calm and have your concerns/suggestions organized and to the point. I know it's hard, but don't let your anger/frustration get in the way of the valid reason you are there. Good luck and God bless.
Jill August 04, 2012 at 12:52 PM
When I found out about the transportation changed in May, it was from a friend who has a friend on the school board. That is when I began my research. Until these last few weeks nothing has been communicated to the public except thru the Board of Education's Memo posted online. I began my own research and contacted the County Engineer department and was told they currently had no information for installing sidewalks along Haymon Morris Road except in front of the apartments. I then called the School Board and left several messages for the Superintendent and then called the District Commissioner. I was told by the Commissioner that they had no knowledge of this change (this was the end of June). They were going to get to the bottom of it. One of the Commissioners I spoke to said he was on the Budget Committee and would stand against this. Both of the Commissioners I spoke to were against this decision and would do what they could to change it. I've been in contact with them since and they are still opposed to it but it will take everyone standing up and getting involved!
Rebecca August 04, 2012 at 05:55 PM
These changes in regards to living close by don't directly effect us, but the new school hours for the elementary school does. I agree with a majority of the posters here that it's ridiculous. I really hope it doesn't take a child being hurt or take for this to change. I know several over at Bethlehem said they got very informed of the changes at the end of the school year. I didn't know any of these changes until I saw this Patch article. Were we the only family in the Yargo district that didn't hear anything from the school?
Mark D. Fenley August 04, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Something needs to be done. As far as I can tell, the Barrow County Schools system is in the worst shape in years. We need new leadership. We need someone that can organize the schools. Two weeks before school starts and no school supply lists. When I call the high school the answer I get is each teacher has different supply requirements. Does that mean that each teacher is not capable of writing them down and then someone can compile a list so that we know what to get our children for school. If you look up the definition of Asinine in the dictionary, it will say see Barrow County School System.
JDW August 04, 2012 at 06:38 PM
No Rebecca you are not. I too have a child in Yargo, also had one at Haymon Morris at the time, I never received anything from either school. I found out by reading the Patch. Thank you Deanna for keeping us informed.
Lattishia August 04, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Thank you both. :o) I think I should start a shuttle service (seriously). I'm sorry you all are dealing with this. I homeschool so these changes don't affect us.
Rebecca August 04, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Ok, well I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one. The only thing I got at the end of the school year was the survey for uniforms. As soon as I read this article I panicked because we have to have before school care now as well as after school. I didn't think there would be any room left, but the coordinator told me they had plenty of room. Now that I think about it, that extra room could be because not everyone knows about the bell change. Among everything else, that lack of communication extremely irritates me. Things seriously need to change across the board.
Rebecca Wachowiak- Hitchcock August 05, 2012 at 05:45 PM
We are not asking for and donations or are we accepting any! ipetition.com asks for donations after your signature has been recorded. Since it is a free website in order for them to stay as a free website they ask for donations. I am a concerned and affected parent by the PRZone. My friends and me decided to try and make a change. We have gone door to door with our petition. On Friday we got 40 signatures in one subdivion! I do not know how many signatures we need but we will present his at the Board meeting on Tuesday. Along with pictures we have taken of the dangerous roads. And any other information we can get our hands on...
Rebecca Wachowiak- Hitchcock August 05, 2012 at 05:57 PM
I personally think the Board didnt want any bad publicty right before reelections! And this is a major change the Board should have notified the parents! Why couldnt they sent out a recorded msg?
JDW August 05, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Sorry Rebecca, saw this the day after I signed it. It did go through. I would say you need to get as many signatures as possible. I may have a possible solution to this, if you want to private message me, I will let you know what it is.
Rachel Henson August 06, 2012 at 01:40 AM
I am with anyone who wants to help to make a change. My childrens safety is always first and nothing less. I feel that our boe and the superintendent should feel the same but with the new things they are throwing out there it doesnt show they have any concern or care for my childrens safety. I am not happy about the uniform issue either and am very glad that I have the option to say no this year - after reading in the paper that it is mandatory next year - I am very upset b/c my child should not be made to wear a uniform at public school and I shouldnt have to change my budget to make them happy. However, at this time I will put that fire on the back burner and fight this fire with 200%. If we do not make a stand Ms. Creel will keep coming up with all kinds of other crap for this county and continue to make decisions that are not in the best interest of our children. I do not care how many awards she gets or what her title is....if she has the position of superintendent then she needs to put our childrens safety first - period - no questions asked - if she cannot do so then she needs to get another job in another county - or maybe we should put her in the cleaning crew she has hired for the school system. I want our county superintendent to be someone I can trust with my child and she is not that person. If our police department doesn't think this is a smart idea then she should do the same.
L August 06, 2012 at 07:34 PM
what a joke! it makes me sick to say I am a Barrow County resident. if I could sell my house, I would be gone in a second. these elected officials aren't concerned for the citizens and especially the welfare of the kids with their safety. We need an entirely new school board in the near future and I won't be voting for any of the ones currently serving.
I Care August 08, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Short term solutions- imperfect but immediate: Perhaps this site (or something like it) could provide a solution: http://www.carpoolworld.com/carpoolworld-communities.html Each school could set up a link on their respective websites for "no-bus" area parents to coordinate with other parents & volunteers- with obvious hold harmless liability disclaimers for the school. A bing search for carpool brought up several private schools that offer that service on their school website. Perhaps an e-mail to each school principal could get this going. These policy changes will not be changed overnight and school begins next week. I'm not saying it is the best solution, but it is the best one at the moment while the discussion over the budget & new policies continues. Carpools are organized faster than sidewalks could be built. People in the "no-bus" radius might also consider working with the local police to set up neighborhood watch and remain vigilant.


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