TIFTON - As many as 80 percent of local primary and elementary students will be attending different schools next year under redistricting plans approved Tuesday by the Tift County Board of Education.

The changes, made because of the new Annie Belle Clark Primary School on Carpenter Road, are "as equitable and as fair as we can make them," school system projects manager Patrick Atwater said.

Atwater, the board's zoning committee and the Regional Development Center in Valdosta developed the plans "over many, many months," Atwater said. Unlike in previous years, the districts are divided along major thoroughfares and do not contain "islands" of students isolated from others attending the same school, with one exception in the J.T. Reddick area.

Atwater said all of the schools are within 1 percent of having the same racial makeup and that care was taken to have a mix of well-to-do and lower-income neighborhoods in each district.

Copies will be placed at each of the schools today and will also be available for viewing at the board office on Ridge Avenue. Superintendent Harold Abbott said all students will also notified by letter before school starts in August.

There will be no change in the boundaries for students attending Omega School. Students at the new school will be drawn from an area bounded by Whiddon Mill Road, the Tift-Worth County line, the current Omega School boundaries, the Cook and Berrien County lines and U.S. Highway 82 East.

The G.O. Bailey district will be bounded by U.S. Highway 82 East on the south, the Berrien County line, Chula-Brookfield Road and Old Ocilla Road.

Northside boundaries will be Old Ocilla Road, Wiley Branch Road and Tift Avenue/Georgia Highway 125 North.

Students living north of Wiley Branch Road, west of Tift Avenue/125, east of Whiddon Mill Road and south of Turner County will attend Len Lastinger.

The elementary school districts are similar, with the district for Matt Wilson occupying roughly the same area as that of the new Annie Belle Clark, the Omega district staying the same, the J.T. Reddick district running from Whiddon Mill Road to Turner County to Brighton Road to Tift Avenue/125.

Charles Spencer students will be drawn from the area bounded by Tift Avenue/125, the county line and just north of 82 East.

Atwater said the physical location of J.T. Reddick made it necessary to have a large "island" surrounding the school so that students living in the area would attend classes there.

"There's a lot of interest out there, a lot of changes, a lot of equity for all of the schools," Abbott said. "We're very pleased with the way it turned out."

In other action Tuesday, the board:

Approved a calendar for the next school year calling for school to start Aug. 7 and get out for the summer May 21, 2004. Christmas holidays will be Dec. 19-Jan. 4. Abbott said the schedule is very similar to this year's except that there is a longer pre-planning period.

Tabled a request by the Tiftarea YMCA to buy or have donated four of the portable buildings that will no longer be in use after the new school opens. Board members voted to wait until the property committee can examine the buildings and determine their value.

Recognized Team Aquila members from Eighth Street Middle School for being named "Team of the Year" for Region Five of the Georgia Middle School Association. Team members are Barbara Boggs, Misti Davis, Beth Lee, Lisa Moore and Ed Connell.

Approved the purchase of new science/health/physical education textbooks.

To contact city editor Florence Rankin, call 382-4321, ext. 209.

Copies of the district maps will be printed in Thursday's Gazette.

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