The Arlington school board approved the rezoning of Arlington Elementary (AES), Arlington Middle School, and Donelson Elementary at its Dec. 13 meeting. The vote was unanimous among those in attendance.
“This couldn’t have been handled any better,” said Kevin Yates, a member of the school board. “I think folks in our community really answered the call.”
The rezoning will move 247 students from AES to Donelson for the 2017-18 school year.
“We know that there is some planned growth,” explained Nedra Jones, the shared services planner for several Shelby County municipal school districts. “Most of the growth is occurring in the Arlington Elementary zone, and the area is still growing.” At the moment, AES has 1,018 students on a campus with a 960-student capacity.
Donelson has the opposite issue, hosting 705 students in a 1,000-student location. The school’s percent utilization stands at 70.5, but it will rise during the rezoning. Ideally, it would be 85 percent or higher.
The Lakeland School System will open Lakeland Middle Preparatory School next year for grades 5-8. “It makes sense for the Lakeland transition because this is the area closest to Donelson’s boundary,” said Jones. “It’s simply a matter of readjusting the boundaries.”
Previously, several parents and citizens were vocal about their disapproval of the rezoning. However, no one objected at the meeting.
“When I first heard about this, (the rezoning) I didn’t think it would ever really happen,” said Jason Fischer of Arlington. Fischer has a nephew currently attending AES. “When you hear so much talk about something for so long and it doesn’t happen, you start not to believe it. When they approved it, I was shocked.”
Although surprised, Fischer supports the rezoning. “I don’t mind the move to Donelson because it’ll be a lot less hectic than what Arlington Elementary appears to be right now. I think the change is right.”
Yates initially appeared to be apprehensive about the rezoning issue. “I really didn’t know what to expect this evening,” he said after the meeting. “This is a very hard thing for parents and students to go through. This is not easy. You’re basically leaving your home. You’re leaving one great place to go to another. This is a tough, tough thing.”
If audience members had reservations, they appeared to change their minds after the detailed presentation by Jones.
“We’re very pleased with the thoroughness of the data. We definitely put some parents at ease,” said Jeff Mayo, chief of staff for Arlington Community Schools.
Barbara Jenkins, a Tennessee Education Association affiliate for the Germantown-Arlington-Lakeland-Education Association (GALEA), said. “I think it is going to be difficult, but they took a look at all the factors so we can continue to provide safe places for students to learn.”
Also at Tuesday’s board meeting, Arlington Middle School eighth-graders helped in the presentation “Tomorrow’s Teaching for Today,” which showcased new ways for teachers and students to interact online for homework assignments and assessments.
The school board praised the state’s decision to change how teachers are evaluated annually. Previously, educators had to guess the numeric codes for which they would be evaluated.
“We, members of TEA, are happy that they’ll get better evaluations for teachers,” said Jenkins.
Written by A.J. Dugger III, Special to the Express.