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Lindsey Plan keeps Farragut intact


What if they built a brand new high school — and nobody came?

That prospect stalked Knox County Board of Education members more than three hours Monday, Nov. 20, as they grappled with a school attendance zone proposed by Knox County Schools Supt. Dr. Charles Lindsey.


Board members, using Metropolitan Planning Commission growth projections, tried to discern whether long-awaited Hardin Valley High School might have too many pupils —or way too few — once it opens in 2008.

Some asked whether HVHS could ease crowding at Karns, Bearden and Farragut high schools if the school, designed for 1,800-plus, opens with 930. Projections show fewer than 1,000 enrolled there by 2015.

Critics, however, said more dramatic growth would mean that opening HVHS with 1,800 students only necessitates another rezoning later. Lindsey said his proposal allowed for growth, so rezoning later was necessary.

Board member Thomas Deakins, however, cited recent accounts of new neighborhoods like Covered Bridge, a 300-home community planned near Hardin Valley Road, not considered in MPC projections. Board member Robert Bratton questioned MPC predictions of one percent annual growth as basis for HVHS zoning. Bratton sees area growth, by 2012, nearer 8 percent — enough to fill HVHS.

A few of 60 concerned parents present criticized the zoning, saying it exposed HVHS students to Pellissippi Parkway congestion. The proposal leaves most Farragut residents attending crowded Farragut High School; but nearer Pellissippi Parkway, some children newly zoned for HVHS, would travel a 20-mile round trip daily to the new

campus.

Farragut residents, whose children remain zoned to FHS, generally lauded the proposal. Residents east of Lovell, Canton Hollow and Woody roads and Concord Park were less complimentary. Some had endured earlier zoning shifts among A.L. Lotts Elementary and West Valley Middle schools and knew the headaches.

The proposal zones all A.L. Lotts pupils, west of Fox Road, to HVHS. From Karns and Farragut middle schools, 20 percent would attend HVHS; others are split to Karns and Farragut. Rising juniors and seniors, however, could select HVHS or stay in previous schools.

Parents such as Stephen H. Jackson of 12713 Clear Ridge Road, farthest from HVHS, praised the board series of public forums continuing Monday, Dec. 4, at Fulton High School, and Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the City County Building. Jackson said:

“You’ve done a lot of hard work. I agree with the zone.”

Phil Pfeifer, however, criticized board efforts to ease Farragut crowding with a new school. He called HVHS’ site “lousy” and said the district “jiggers around” with school hours now “so it’s safe to send kids there.” (Lindsey proposed avoiding rush hours by setting HVHS classes from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Pfeifer urged the board to “do no harm” rezoning “until we can send kids to a school at least as good as those they attend now.”

Lindsey asked board guidance as to what variations on zoning proposals would suit them, but board member Sam Anderson warned others to leave drawing attendance zones to staff.

Anderson said HVHS needs 1,200 or more pupils at opening if it has any effect on crowding

elsewhere.

“We need all four excellent schools at comparable sizes,” Anderson added.

Lindsey said he’s posted the HVHS principal’s job notice, to be filled late by January 2007. He proposed making HVHS’s curriculum attractive by offering such cinematography, a Pellissippi State Technical Community College partnership or international baccalaureate program.

Pfeifer called that a “smokescreen” and said the district lacks time to implement a baccalaureate at HVHS. He called such proposals an effort “to get people to buy into a second-rate school.”

Blake Moore of Stone Canyon Lane urged the board to remember, in rezoning, they were “talking not demographics, but live human beings.” He said “filling H-V-H-S will not be an issue,” and he urged the board to “make your best-guess [growth] estimate and move forward.”

Wendy Kennedy of Piney Grove Chapel Road feared Bearden rezoning might affect her children’s sharing the same schools. She urged board rejection of any proposal that lets siblings be assigned different schools.

Vickie Catapano of 12819 Paladin Lane said it was a mistake to rezone her community to HVHS, then rezone it back to Farragut as HVHS grows. She said:

“Keep children in feeder schools together,” she urged, and don’t juggle curriculum. “Keep issues separate,” she said. “Do zoning first.”

(Lindsey also proposed “open zoning” so Knox County pupils elsewhere might attend HVHS.)

Todd K. Taylor of 506 Gwinhurst Road, said Wentworth Homeowners Association members, “passionate” about quality schools, supported Lindsey’s HVHS zoning. But he urged programs to draw more HVHS pupils.

Robert Williams of 12836 Pecos Road supported rezoning but is concerned with safety issues.

“HVHS will be fantastic,” he predicted. But Watt Road traffic hazards would worsen, he said, if Farragut pupils had to cross Interstate 40 or drive Everett Road to that campus. Williams urged the board to avoid temptation to “get a critical mass,” just to fill HVHS.

Brad Moore of 1412 Bexley Cove Lane, whose children attend Farragut High, West Valley Middle and A.L. Lotts Elementary schools, lives between Bearden and Farragut highs, five miles from either. Rezoning to HVHS launches his children on daily 24-mile round trips. He, his wife and mother are FHS graduates, he said, but he most objects to rezoning based on safety concerns. Hardin Valley and I-40 interchanges are among state’s most hazardous, he said, and rezoning adds to that mix a fleet of school buses and 16-year-old drivers.

“The board should consider traffic studies and address that safety issue,” he added.

Lindsey said HVHS — district’s first “new high school” in 40 years — offers the chance “to design a prototype that could become a model for other schools.” He said projected enrollments proved low in three other high schools he helped plan.

KCS transportation supervisor Rick Grubb compared devising attendance zones with inflating balloons. “Push down on one side,” he said, “and it has a direct impact on the other.”

 

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