The Dawson County school board last week approved a measure that will realign grades 6-12 in an effort to open additional opportunities for middle and high school students.
In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the board agreed to a plan that would move all sixth and seventh graders to one campus, eighth and ninth graders to a second campus and leave 10th-12th grades at the high school.
Planned to be phased in over two years, beginning in fall 2016, the process has been in the works for the last 15-18 months.
"Very few school systems in Georgia are using the alignment model that we have approved in Dawson County, but we are perfectly positioned to become a model for other counties to follow," said Elaine Wilson, board member. "It is our hope that the realignment of our middle and high schools will provide more and better opportunities for all of our students, while allowing better utilization of our classroom space."
The first year would have all of the county's sixth and seventh graders attending Dawson County Middle School at the current Riverview Middle School campus, while eighth graders will be at the current Dawson County Middle School campus, which will be renamed Dawson County Junior High School.
In phase two, ninth graders would stay at Dawson County Junior High along with the incoming eighth graders, leaving only 10th-12th grades at Dawson County High School.
The changes, according to School Superintendent Damon Gibbs, would solve a number of issues, such as class space availability, within the school system.
He said the growth capability at each school would increase to about 500 students.
"Now that the decision has been made to move forward with the realignment, my staff is working on a timeline of events that will occur over the next several months," he said. "Issues at the top of the list include personnel, transportation, athletics and expanding academic opportunities."
Officials have said the hope is that the realignment will result in additional academic opportunities for eighth grade students, increased graduation rates and the ability for more high school students to be dual enrolled at area colleges.
"We see the new alignment as a win for students and a win for our school system," Wilson said.
Board member Karen Armstrong said she is excited to see what the school system's future holds with the new changes in place.
"The realignment will slowly integrate the students into each level for comfortability and also grow in maturity level," she said.
The school system held two informational meetings about the realignment in November in which 150-200 parents were in attendance.
"The change was not just decided by the board of education or the school system," Armstrong said. "The citizens of Dawson County input was also valued and asked for. We wanted to do what was right for the children, and we felt this was the right decision."