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Group questions Hardin Valley logic

Concerned Farragut school patrons, meeting Sundays for weeks now, can’t help but ask these questions of Knox County School administrators:

If West High School were crowded, would KCS build a new high school 12 miles away, say, in Powell to relieve crowding? If Powell High burst at the seams, would KCS build a school at Halls, seven miles away, to ease it?

Fiona Hill, Jeanne Gilmartin and Pamela Treacy of Farragut have joined other concerned parents proposing options for rezoning $50 million Hardin Valley High School, rising now. They say the logical answer to the questions is a resounding NO!

“These scenarios don’t make sense,” Hill said. “Yet that’s exactly the situation the Farragut High School community faces. Overcrowding exists in the southwest sector. Yet a high school’s built in the northwest sector to relieve it. That’s the wrong place.”

Workers daily add bricks and mortar to a new HVHS proposed to serve up to 1,800 students after 2008. Yet almost no one zoned for crowded FHS wants their children to attend school there.

Hill said, “after months of saying HVHS will alleviate Farragut, Karns and Bearden crowding, the school administration now appears to be constructing HVHS solely to alleviate FHS crowding.” She cited Metropolitan Planning Commission statistics predicting slight decline in BHS enrollment. She noted that KCS Supt. Charles Q. Lindsey’s HVHS zoning proposal, tabled in December, sent no Bearden High students to HVHS.

“Karns recently received an addition,” Hill said, “[so it] no longer faces overcrowding.”

Few high-school-aged pupils live near HVHS, so Lindsey proposed reassigning FHS pupils, north of I-40 and south to Northshore Drive and West Valley, to travel daily round trips totaling up to 24 miles to HVHS. Some would pass FHS en route.

Hill noted, “the board focused on enrollment [and] transportation. But a commute is taxing on anyone…. None of us moved here and invested…. to be denied opportunity for our children to attend the community high school [FHS]. How can we share equally the benefits and burdens of a new school?

“Parents want feeder [middle] schools kept together,” Hill said. “Everyone here has better access to FHS than HVHS.” Concerns arose about teen drivers commuting unsafe routes to HVHS. Rather than await April board rezoning, patrons proposed an alternative:

“All these criteria can be met [with] no rezoning, if we turn [HVHS] into a middle school,” Hill said. “Those zoned for F-M-S would be rezoned for new H-V-M-S. F-M-S would house F-H-S nineth and tenth grades,” and FHS would serve juniors and seniors.

“All F-H-S academic, athletic, elective programs and extra-curriculars would remain intact,” she said. “F-H-S programs would not be sacrificed, just to populate H-V-H-S.”

She said the HVMS proposal achieves these goals:

• Feeder middle schools would stay aligned.

• HVMS pupils would commute further but also benefit from a new school.

• FHS programs stay intact, so revising attendance zones is unnecessary.

• Schools would hire middle school teachers — not high school staff.

• Farragut residents need not move to keep children in Farragut area schools.

• HVMS would ease long-term crowding.

• No one need pass by FHS to reach HVHS. Teenaged drivers need not negotiate difficult roads to reach HVHS. Buses and parents would deliver younger students to HVMS.

•  West Knox property values would be protected.

Knox County Schools spokesman Russ Oaks declined comment, saying no such proposal had reached KCS. Sixth District Board member Thomas Deakins applauded community involvement in planning.

“Very healthy,” Deakins called it. “I only wish we had that a year ago.”

Changing course now is difficult, he added, since the building is named and under way.

“County Commission appropriated the money. We’ve named a principal,” he said. “The board would have to make a recommendation. Commissioners would have to approve any changes. And that’s a big hurdle.”

Deakins said just refitting FMS for high school labs would be difficult, and shuttling FHS pupils between campuses could be an issue “that might be


But ensuring that all Farragut residents could attend FHS has “a downside,” he said, because it also meant Hardin Valley families would have to drive the same dangerous roads for their 9th- and 10th-graders to reach an expanded FHS.

“I represent both communities,” Deakins said. “I’m afraid we’ve come too far down this path. When we set the zone [probably May], I think some Farragut students still will attend HVHS… [or] we’re not resolving the crowding issue.”

Deakins called any proposed FHS expansion “a very tough sell” to fellow Board members. The board, he said, will first name a superintendent and wrestle budgets.

“Later, we’ll get heads-down on zoning,” he said. “A May rezoning target date allows fourteen months’ notice” for those assigned another attendance zone.


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