Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney revealed proposed rezoning plans recently as a solution to ease overcrowding at Spring Station Middle School (SSMS) in Spring Hill and Lipscomb Elementary School (LES) in Brentwood.
The board will vote next month on the plans, scheduled for implementation during the 2014-15 school year.
Some affected parents in the Spring Station area expressed dissatisfaction Tuesday because of the effects it could have on close-knit neighborhoods such as Cameron Farms and Crowne Point, which would adopt different school feeder patterns for parts of the neighborhoods.
Students living in Spring Station Middle School’s northwest boundaries, west of I-65 and north of Buckner Road, could be rezoned to Heritage Middle School. Then, families will be given the option to attend Summit High or Independence High.
Parents argued that an interruption in school feeder patterns would disrupt students’ relationships with friends and teachers, as well as academics and sports teams in the short and long term.
“I recognize that it’s a hard pill to swallow,” Looney said. “I don’t know of a family who wants to be rezoned.”
However, Brock Holforty, a sixth grade student at Spring Station Middle, had his own opinion.
“Friends make a bond. Splitting them apart is wrong,” he said. Although Holforty is unaffected by the rezoning proposal, he attended the meeting to educate himself on the subject affecting his friends. Looney praised Holforty for speaking out. “I am proud of you young man,” he said.
However, Looney later stressed that Spring Station Middle must be relieved, and he believes that his proposal is ultimately best for the district.
“While teachers are on carts at Spring Station Middle, 350 seats are available at Heritage Middle,” Looney said. In its fourth year of operation, Spring Station Middle is over its 971 capacity with 1,071 students.
Parents asked if other areas were considered for rezoning instead of dividing dense, close-knit neighborhoods like Cameron Farms and Crowne Point.
“We can see Spring Station from our yard [in Cameron Farms], yet we will be zoned for Heritage,” parent Chris York said.
“These kids have grown up together for the last six or seven years and that will be taken away.”
Parents wanted to know how rezoning is determined and how the district decides which neighborhoods and its sections are rezoned.
“Your community is a challenge because it has very rural areas and very dense areas,” Looney said. He explained that rezoning a large rural portion would only include about 50 children, which isn’t enough to relieve overcrowded schools.
“We targeted the most dense areas so that we won’t create a need to rezone again in the long-term, at least five years,” Looney said.
“Communities with more density affect a smaller geographic region.”
Three main issues factor into creating rezoning plans, Looney explained.
First is consideration of a school’s “core capacity,” meaning the number of students who can be accommodated in the cafeterias and gymnasiums.
Second is residential development statistics. And the third issue is transportation routes.
“I have never looked at a tax map or by cities when rezoning [as some parents have speculated],” Looney said.
Also board policy states that the highest-grade level affected in a rezoned school will be grandfathered into current zoning so they may remain at their home school.
Also, Bethesda Elementary will not change as a feeder for the area Looney said, although thirty-nine percent of children at Bethesda would be affected by the change in the feeder pattern.
Parent Adam Hollis asked why Spring Station was built smaller than Heritage Middle. About eight classrooms were built onto Heritage Middle years ago. Spring Station was not designed for such additions, Looney said.
Also, busing is currently not provided for grandfathered students, but board members said they would be open to discussions about transportation.
“When the board follows the recommendation, rezoning is successful, but when we stray from the recommendation … “ Looney stated before adding an explanation.
“During district rezoning three years ago there was an amendment to the plan at the last minute, and that’s part of the reason that we are here today.”