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Citizens unload on school rezoning

School logoShelby County Schools’ rezoning proposals are making some parents nervous that their children might miss resources and activities from their old schools. Others fear that rural schools will become “dumping grounds” for students who are no longer zoned to their old schools in the new municipal school districts.

Rezoning meetings have invited public input, and parents from Arlington, Houston and Millington areas gathered Monday night at Kate Bond Elementary School in Bartlett to view maps up close and tell Shelby County Schools about their worries.

A crowd of about 50 people, including media and school personnel, attended the meeting despite it being held during spring break. Bad weather during the previous week and a time crunch to make zoning decisions meant that a spring break meeting was needed, Shelby County Schools’ officials said.

Denise Sharpe, SCS director of facilities planning, said it’s probable the rezoning will change based on heavy input from Millington parents, who asked that students who formerly attended Millington High School not be forced to make the long trek to Bolton High School for their classes. Instead, they proposed changing Woodstock Middle School into a high school.

She also encouraged concerned parents who remain loyal to their children’s former schools to take advantage of city school districts’ open enrollment policies if space is available.

Former SCS board commissioner Kenneth Whalum Jr. spoke out passionately against further actions by Shelby County Schools that enable the municipal school districts to operate.

“Please slow this thing down,” Whalum said. “…You make the policy. Treat this like what it is. This is the greatest civic emergency in Shelby County since the yellow fever epidemic.”

He asked board members to put on the brakes and refuse to proceed, even if that means resigning their positions, because he believes school district changes are coming too fast for the good of Shelby County’s children.

SCS District II board member Teresa Jones said changing direction is no longer an option. “I understand your plea. I’m not sure how we do that. Resigning or not making a decision will leave these parents that you’ve mentioned in even more of a hole.”

She said state law demands that schools open by a certain time, and decisions must be made. That is why rezoning discussions are happening rapidly, so parents can have input and be informed about their choices.

Another resident said she worries about overcrowding caused by the rezoning. Sharpe reassured her that additional crowding should not be a problem because some students are expected to go to the municipal school districts.

She acknowledged that all schools in northeast Shelby County are crowded but can manage the number of students planned in the rezoning efforts.

“There’s no indication for us that any existing overcrowding situation would be any worse than it currently is,” Sharpe said. “In fact, we believe there will be improvement, particularly for Germantown High School.”

She also said some schools might be expanded or have portable classroom space added as time and funding permit.

Shelby County resident Johnny Lock said he has a son who is a junior currently attending Bolton High School and a 10-year-old who will eventually attend. He spoke out against the rezoning proposals and believes that the influx of kids from a larger area will dilute the school’s strengths.

“It appears to me that Bolton High School has become a dumping ground for whatever kids you don’t have room for at any other schools,” Lock said.

Jones and Sharpe both said they doesn’t believe that “dumping ground” is an accurate representation for Bolton High School.

SCS District II board member David Reaves said the school board recognizes that long rides to school are not ideal for students, but it is necessary for this next school year because Shelby County is out of capacity in the northern and eastern portions. Earlier rezoning proposals had the same students being bused to schools with lower academic standing, and parents objected.

“The closest good option we had was Bolton for this community,” Reaves said. “When you looked at the criteria, one of the top four criteria was the comparison to the academic achievement. And Bolton was the best option that we had.”

He said many students in north Cordova and in the Shelby Forest and Waverly Plantation areas are likely to apply to the nearer municipal school districts, so the influx of students at Bolton High School may be lower than parents expect.

“What we are trying to do is to make sure the best interests of these kids’ educations are at heart,” Reaves said. “I know the way it looks, we’re pulling kids from all over the county, but the reality is that we didn’t really have a whole lot of choices in where we could send our kids.”

To see detailed school rezoning maps, go to http://www.scsk12.org/uf/news/viewrelease.php?id=238.


Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or carolyn.bahm@journalinc.com.

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