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Residents speak out at school zoning meeting


Forget Beverly Hills, 90210.

Farragut school patrons, at a Tuesday, Oct. 3, hearing on attendance zones for Hardin Valley High School, showed school officials an even stronger sense of community — one built around Farragut’s own postal ZIP Code, 37934.

Several parents told a crowd exceeding 300 gathered in the Vickie Wells Auditorium at Farragut High School they wanted Farragut students attending Farragut schools, even with crowded classes. Even if Knox County Schools offer pupils instead a new HVHS campus further north.

Some threatened to relocate, outside any HVHS attendance zone drawn through Farragut, rather than see Farragut children reassigned to HVHS, now under construction.

Knox County Board of Education members and KCS superintendent. Dr. Charles Lindsey convened the meeting to solicit comments on attendance zones, drawn to ease FHS crowding.

They got some.

Some parents suspected KCS already had set zoning so that some pupils might later be driven past Farragut schools en route to class at HVHS, five miles away.

Deputy School superintendent Roy Mullins and KCS spokesman Russ Oaks, at a two-hour session, repeatedly denied rumors of any such zone. That’s what meetings are about, they said.

School Board members Karen Collins, Cindy Buttry and Thomas Deakins attended, along with Knox County Commissioner Craig Leuthold, Farragut Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III and Farragut Alderman Thomas M. Rosseel. KCS officials included high school curriculum director and former FHS principal Ed Hedgepeth, Assistant superintendent Bob Thomas, and KCS zoning and transportation supervisor Rick Grubb.

Lindsey said hearings were intended “to dispel rumors, tell you what we know and give you the chance to respond.”

Oaks said KCS would ensure that HVHS students, by 2008, enjoy “a complete robust high school experience from the first day.”

Grubb called it logical to assume that 250 pupils, nearest HVHS, will attend HVHS. But the new school, designed for 2,100, must also draw from crowded Farragut, Bearden and Karns zones serving 21,000 West Knox students, K-12.

Oaks showed larger zones serving sparser Karns and Bearden, and a smaller Farragut area, from Northshore Drive to I-40/75, and from Virtue, Smith and McFee roads east toward Canton Hollow. Grubb said about 60 percent of current FHS students, residing within that area, probably should stay zoned for FHS. Pupils outside that area could be reassigned.

Hints of reassignment riled such parents as Pamela Treacy, who moved from Chicago to Farragut, 12 years ago, so her family could be in a closely-knit community. Treacy, whose children attend Farragut High and Middle schools, called sending Farragut pupils to HVHS “illogical.” That, she said, would fragment a community whose children fare well because of parental involvement in schools.

“I’d suggest town boundaries also be the attendance zone boundaries,” Treacy said to much applause. “Let kids living in Farragut go to schools in Farragut.”

She urged parents to e-mail board members from ZIP Code 37934 to keep all Farragut zoned for FHS.

Dennis Downs, father of a Farragut seventh grader, runs a Lovell Road business but lives north of I-40 — an area which some have proposed be zoned to HVHS.

“If you change our children from one school to another,” he asked, “what opportunity are you giving us to deal with that? You’re forcing us to move farther away. I’m closer to FHS than Karns; yet I’d being deployed to another area.”

Fiona Hill of the Hickory Woods subdivision moved to Farragut seven years ago for “quality schools.” But her neighborhood lies outside that circle drawn for likeliest inclusion within FHS’s future attendance zone.

Hill said her neighbors gladly signed petitions opposing any reassignment of Farragut pupils. Petitions urged KCS to “respect our wishes and parents’ commitments to their children and the Farragut community.”

“Residents of Farragut should have first priority on attending Farragut schools,” Hill said. “We live, shop and have addresses in Farragut’s ZIP Code. We have a logical expectation our children will attend hometown schools.”

Ford said the town fully supports schools. But the town is not in the education business, he added, because that’s county responsibility. Farragut does build and maintain streets ensuring school access, he noted.

Dr. John B. Williams and his wife, Linda Williams, said they bought in Farragut’s Fox Run area eight years ago to ensure their four children could attend quality schools. Recently, the Williamses went door to door, discussing with neighbors the need to keep the neighborhood zoned for Farragut schools.

“They all appreciated that schools are the bedrock of our sense of community,” John Williams said. “None wanted to see Farragut residents rezoned to another school.

“If your lines bisect us, you’ll dissect that sense of community we all share,” he told school officials. Williams urged school board members to “set a precedent that the board will (never) divide residents of an incorporated municipality as long

as a school exists in that

municipality.”

Linda Williams, who gleaned 150 petition signatures, added: “There’s great support for keeping things intact. There’s concern about effects on property values if we’re rezoned.”

Steve Dedman said he intends to buy in Farragut so his 10-month-old daughter will attend good schools. He would reconsider, he said, if the system allows such a rezoning “travesty” to “tear apart” the community. Meredith Hayes also said she would relocate rather than see children reassigned outside Farragut.

Mullins called any zoning proposal “premature” before December School Board meetings. He said KCS uses these criteria in attendance zoning:

• Community-school

proximity.

• Road access.

• Local growth potential, so rezoning doesn’t merely move crowding elsewhere.

• Natural barriers that may obstruct pupils’ access to schools.

Mullins said KCS has no wish to destroy any community’s fabric through rezoning.

“Adjusting attendance zones is not an easy job … the board relishes,” he said. “We can’t move schools, but we can move students, so we must adjust some lines.”

Mullins said no West Knox high school should enroll more than 90 percent of capacity, once HVHS opens. That means about 1,800 FHS students — down from 2,200.

Concerned parents may attend a 6 p.m. hearing Thursday, Oct. 12, at Karns High School. Carson, Buttry and Deakins invited concerned parents to e-mail them or visit www.knoxschools.org for updates. Oaks announced this timetable for resolving HVHS zoning issues:

Monday, Oct. 23 — KCS Board overview of community meeting responses, Andrew Johnson Building, 912 S. Gay St.

Monday, Nov. 20 — Board work session on zoning, AJ Building.

Monday, Dec. 4 — KCS Board zoning proposal discussion, AJ Building.

Wednesday, Dec. 6 — KCS Board acts on attendance zones, City-County Building.

 

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