With the painful decision to close Central in the rearview mirror, sights had turned to how Central’s students would be divvied up among other elementary schools — namely Hazelwood and Junaluska elementaries — with students and parents eagerly awaiting the news of what school district they would end up in.
The job of drawing new school district lines fell to Todd Trantham, Haywood County Schools’ transportation coordinator. Luckily, it was easier than he thought it might be.
Trantham came up with a natural dividing line through the middle of Waynesville — one that bisects the former Central School District — simply by following Main Street and Russ Avenue. Everything to the west of Main Street and Russ Avenue will be in Hazelwood’s district, and everything on the east side will be in Junaluska’s district.
“We wanted to make sure we created a district line that was easy to understand and help make a very difficult transition as easy as possible for these students,” Trantham said.
The natural dividing line follows commercial corridors through town, eliminating the awkward situation of splitting neighborhoods, with kids on opposite sides of the street going to different schools.
When Trantham began putting pencil to paper, he was pleasantly surprised that he could avoid jagged, dog-legged district lines and still achieve the balanced distribution he was hoping for.
“We wanted to spread those students out in a way we didn’t overcrowd either school,” Trantham said.
Hazelwood will get 111 students from Central, bringing it to a total student body of 573. Now the largest school in the county, Hazelwood will have a total of six third-grade classrooms next year — its largest grade corresponds with a spike in the birth rate during 2007 when the economy was rocking.
Junaluska will get 86 new students, for a total student body of 422.
Hazelwood is getting more students than Junaluska because it’s newer and bigger, with more extra classrooms to go around. Technically, both schools will still be under their capacity on paper, and class sizes shouldn’t swell as a result, with plans to add additional teachers to accommodate the additional students.
“Neither school is going to be overcrowded,” School Board Chairman Chuck Francis said. “We’ve got the capacity.”
The numbers are only projections for now, since families may move around between now and then or seek waivers to attend a different school than the one they are assigned.
An additional bus route will be added to both Hazelwood and Junaluska next year to accommodate the larger student body and additional neighborhoods now feeding the two schools.