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Cedar Bluff School parents, community updated

About 200 parents at a Cedar Bluff Parent-Teacher-Student Association meeting Thursday, Sept. 28, had two questions on their minds:

• When will new Cedar Bluff Elementary School classrooms be ready?

• Will Cedar Bluff children be among 2,000 pupils that the Knox County Schools zone to attend long-awaited Hardin Valley High School, finally under way just seven miles to the west.

School officials and representatives of contractor Merit Construction assured parents their new elementary school remains on schedule, near Cedar Bluff Middle and Primary schools.

Steve Heatherly, Merit’s senior vice president, said a two-story Phase I is half built; and Phase II is 20 percent complete, so pupils may be phased in as an April 8 completion date nears. Attending were Doug Dillingham, new facilities supervisor for Knox County Schools, and Wayne Gilley, project manager for the Cedar Bluff project.

Fifth District School Board member Karen Carson told co-presidents Sandra Rowcliffe, Tammy Peterson and others that decisions have yet to be made on whether to include Cedar Bluff pupils, as a bloc, within the new high school’s attendance zone.

Carson urged parents to attend 6 p.m. hearings set by School Supt. Charles Q. Lindsey to formally consider school zoning proposals. The first meeting, at Farragut High, was Tuesday, Oct. 3, but others this week are at:

• Bearden High School, Monday, Oct. 9.

• Karns High School, Thursday, Oct. 12.

Lindsey said he hopes to bring a proposed zone for HVHS before the School Board for action in December, so the zone can be established 18 months before it opens.

“We’re talking mostly to parents of elementary-age students — those most directly affected,” Carson said. “There are no projected zones yet [for HVHS].”

The Fifth District school board member said planners must know first “how far down we need to go to alleviate crowding” at Farragut High School “and to accommodate future growth” in such growth areas as Karns and Powell.

Carson has heard many Farragut residents, she said, explain why they should not have to relocate to ensure their students can graduate with FHS classmates.

“Despite what people in Village Green may think,” she said, “they’re not targeted.”

Areas, more apt for HVHS zone inclusion, she said, lie north of I-40 and near Pellissippi Parkway. It might be best, in prescribing an attendance zone, she added, to keep together classmates from “feeder” elementary schools such as Cedar Bluff or West Valley.

Carson said board members share “reluctance” to set attendance zones without discussing issues with those most affected. She said, “We’ll listen to any compelling reasons” for favoring one attendance zone plan over another.

HVHS should welcome open in late August 2008, but Carson said board members still ponder how to handle a $6 million shortfall in funds for the high school. County Commission’s recently offered the board little help, she said, noting how County Commission funds schools, but school board members administer the funds.

“At some point, our board and county commission must get back together,” she told receptive Cedar Bluff parents. “We must have good working relations…. When one sets the work and the other controls the purse, it makes a relationship very difficult.”

County commission, she said, authorized the board to use funds, already approved, to fund $6 million to pay added construction costs to build and equip $44 million HVHS. Board members, Carson said, don’t wish to do that by diverting revenue from other badly needed school projects.

“We needed a ‘yes’ or ‘no‘ on the $6 million,” she said. “We didn’t want to revise our capital plan.”

Carson said West Knox crowding, however, requires “a permanent fix” leaving elementary schools near 1,000 pupils, middle schools at 1,200 and high schools with 2,000 or fewer students.

A Metropolitan Planning Commission document, released earlier, shows the West Knox sector — north of Fort Loudoun Lake and west of Morrell and Francis Roads to the county line — having 7,000 high-school age pupils by 2015. MPC pegged current enrollment at three West Knox high schools near 6,258 and projected a 10.4 percent increase there by 2015.

Hardin Valley, first new district high school in 25 years, would ease crowding at FHS and, to lesser extent, at Bearden. Carson called it “doable” to cut FHS enrollment near 1,700 once HVHS opens.

HVHS will open with “all the basics” pupils require, she said. But she added that such facilities as baseball and softball fields may have to be community-funded.

MPC said FHS enrollment of 2,248 exceeded earlier projections of 2,146 for 2005-06, leaving FHS 18 percent above facilities’ design capacity. Bearden enrollment rose from the 1,957 projected for 2005-06 to near 2,085 — 9 percent above capacity. Karns High’s projection of 2,094 pupils fell short of that level (1,993 pupils), yet the school remains near capacity.

Carson earlier said enrollments for all three West Knox schools should hover near 90 percent of capacity. HVHS should offer a permanent fix to crowding ills, she said, especially if West Knox growth “maxes out” and shifts to other areas such as Powell.


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