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School Board work session — rezoning

Although several issues were slated for discussion at Knox County’s Board of Education workshop Monday, it was Farragut’s proposed rezoning that filled the boardroom. Concerned parents came prepared to state their cases.

Roy Mullins, assistant superintendent of administrative services, outlined Superintendent Charles Lindsey’s plan, which will move 98 rising eighth graders to Karns High School zone. The students live in the proposed rezoning areas which include: areas east of Pellissippi Parkway and north of I-75 and areas west of Pellissippi, north of I-75 and east of the intersection of Snyder Road and Snyder School Road to include area adjacent to the west side of Snyder School Road. The proposal will establish zoning for the new Ridgedale Elementary school as: all of the current Ridgedale zone, parcels situated north of the railroad tracks currently in the West Hills zone, and all parcels situated south of Oak Ridge Highway, northeast of Bakertown Road, and southeast of 3613 Dyestone Gap Road with direct road access to Amherst Road, Ball Camp Pike or Ball Road, currently in the Karns primary/intermediate school zones.

In four years, it is estimated that this plan will remove 400 children from the Farragut zone. Bus service will be provided to the newly zoned schools. Parents who choose to keep their students at Farragut High School must provide their own transportation.

One area of dispute involves affected students who have siblings already attending FHS. Thirty-two of the 98 affected eighth graders fall into this category.

Trent Primm distributed a “citizens proposal” to the board signed by 56 families who support a possible tax increase to fund a new school, Primm said, “We urge that you build before you move,” he said.

With three school-aged sons, Gina Oster, a Cedar Bluff resident, spoke in favor of rezoning. “Cedar Bluff is a wonderful community and Karns is a wonderful community. Putting the two together would be a wonderful collaboration,” she said.

A graduate of Karns, Oster is excited that her sons might be headed to her alma mater.

Referring to the issue of an FHS education being superior to Karns, Oster said, “I believe the perceptions of some Cedar Bluff parents is mistaken. This is a tough issue but you can’t make everyone happy.” Oster spoke of the overcrowding debate at FHS. “Having classes in hallways or the auditorium is unacceptable,” she said.

Dolores Yoder began her presentation regarding overcrowding with, “We asked for a fix not a Band-Aid. There are enough children out west for another high school,” she said.

KCSB Chairman Sam Anderson responded, “We don’t have the money to build another school. We have to address the problem with the resources we have.” Later Anderson said, “Population grows faster than we can build schools.”

Brian Quist called the rezoning a “social issue” and noted that his daughter wanted to matriculate with her friends. “This is about preserving communities,” he said.

Charles James, 6th district, said, “I don’t like having kids who go to Farragut Primary, Farragut Intermediate and Farragut Middle and then go to Karns.”

Dan Murphy, 4th district, noted the idea of communities staying together is preferable “but it’s gotten to a point where it’s not reality.” Murphy represents Bearden area schools, which he said, spill into more than one high school.

Karen Carson asked the board to give affected parents a year to prepare; adding that temporary classrooms at Farragut would help with the federal guidelines for enrollment.

Murphy asked the board about the possibility of waiting a year.

Mullins said, “It’s a matter of pay me now or pay me later.”

Donna Wright, the newly named assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, addressed the issue of classes offered at Farragut but not at Karns. She said 81 students, with more anticipated, had an interest in a strings class. As for Russian, Wright said only three schools in the county offer the foreign language. “We will really have to garner the interest,” she said. Wright said there is some student interest in an ancient history class offered to 10th to 12th graders.

Anderson said, “This is not going to get better for us. We’re going to rezone until we can build.” He added that until then the board would add on to existing schools.

Near the close of the meeting, Murphy reminded the forum of the county’s proposed budget outlined Tuesday. He believed the board would not be granted the entire amount of funds they requested. “We’re gonna be in cutting mode. It is not reasonable to fund a new school,” he said.

But the board may have some assistance in capital funding if Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale’s proposed $30 wheel tax is passed along with the requested $230 million to support the board’s five-year capital plan.

And at the beginning of Monday’s session, Brian Hornback, District 5 School Board representative, proposed a resolution that stated the Board “requests the assistance of the Town of Farragut to identify parcels of land suitable for the construction of a new West Knox County High School.” The resolution concludes by asking the town for assistance to commit the funds to purchase the land that the board selects as the site for a new school.

This comes after the Board of Mayor and Alderman adopted a resolution that said the town and its citizens “strongly urge the Knox County Board of Education to keep all students residing in the Town of Farragut, including the students residing in Ridgeland subdivision, in the Farragut schools in order to maintain the integrity of the Farragut community.”

“This is a tough situation. No doubt about it,” Cliff Hyman said. He and his wife, Lynn, attended the meeting with their son, Ben, a freshman at Farragut. The couple who also have a 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, are concerned about breaking up their children. “There seems to be very little logic in how they’re dealing with this,” he said. He tackled the issue of FHS being a superior school. “[Ben’s] heard for years at his schools that Farragut is the best high school in the county.”

Ben said he wanted to stay at FHS even with an overcrowded problem. “It’s bad when seven minutes is not enough time to change classes,” he said.

A vote on rezoning was scheduled last night on May 5 (after press time).


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