MARIETTA – Hickory Hills Elementary School’s future is secure for another year as the city’s school board decided Friday to keep the school open and look into an arts program.
Without objection, the school board directed Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck and the city schools staff to research the impact of an arts integration program for the elementary school in the face of its dwindling student population.
Last month, because the student population at Hickory Hills fell to 259 students with one second-grade class that holds only five children, Dr. Lembeck advised the board to transfer remaining students to other schools and house the Marietta Center for Advanced Academics in the old Hickory Hills building after heavy renovation.
“I am opposed to moving the magnet school out of the center of the city,” said board member Irene Berens. “I want it centrally located.”
Board member Tony Fasola said he wanted the school to stay open another year to see how all of the redevelopment in the city would play out and how it could affect enrollment numbers.
At the nearby Johnny Walker Homes and Clay Homes sites, some 2,200 new homes ranging in price from $200,000 to $600,000 are being built. Other sites like Lyman Homes and the Manget area are starting new residential development projects.
“I am not convinced yet that we have all the answers to all the questions,” Fasola said.
Board Chairwoman Jill Mutimer said she didn’t want to wait and pressed the board to begin reviewing possibilities for a new program at Hickory Hills, possibly a magnet program.
Ms. Berens said she wanted to see a performing arts magnet program because the school system’s support of “right-brain” thinking is “not where it should be.”
Board member Randy Weiner, whose Ward 3 includes Hickory Hills, said any magnet program should be an add-on to Hickory Hills and not a replacement. He added a magnet program could pull in more students to the school.
Board member Jeanie Carter said she wanted a broader look at multiple types of programs, not limited to performing arts. The rest of the board assured her general arts covered a broad spectrum beyond performing arts.
“(A full arts integration program is) another way to provide additional choice,” Dr. Lembeck said, adding she thinks an arts program would work for the ailing school.
The school system also is developing a limited choice option that would allow parents to send their children to a school of their choice.
The plan would offer a finite number of spaces at each school, determined by how many regular students already are zoned for the school.
Dr. Lembeck said an arts program would attract people who normally wouldn’t enroll their children in Marietta schools, where math and science curriculums are the focus of their current magnet program.
The board agreed that “limited renovations” should begin at Hickory Hills to prepare for the coming year.
Dr. Lembeck said she would bring the results of research on an arts integration program to the board Feb. 13 for further discussion.