The first reviews of the tentative Shelby County Schools rezoning plan for students were positive, with the plan winning applause Monday, Feb. 24, from parents in the Shelby Forest area.
The set of public hearings moves Wednesday, Feb. 26, to nearby Woodstock Middle School.
A group of more than 200 parents in the Shelby Forest area met at E.E. Jeter Elementary School at the first in a series of public hearings on the proposal and applauded the plan to convert the grade school to include kindergarten through eighth grade, which it had at one point.
The plan to open a new Woodstock High School at what is now Woodstock Middle School also got applause, although school system planner Denise Sharp noted that a few in the audience in the Jeter gymnasium had expressed opposition to the idea.
The hearing lasted less than an hour with lots of questions from parents about transportation, open enrollment rules and deadlines, and other contingencies.
“Nothing is written in stone yet,” cautioned regional superintendent Lee Ann Kight at the outset.
The school system will provide bus transportation for all students in the set of changes centered on Jeter because of the lack of sidewalks in the area, which is within a “rural reserve” of unincorporated Shelby County that is not part of any annexation reserve areas.
The zoning changes outlined last week by Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson covering that and other unincorporated areas as well as Cordova could be voted on by the board at its March 25 meeting.
Among those expressing support for the conversion of Jeter to kindergarten through eighth grade and the creation of a new Woodstock High was Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland.
“I fought y’all pretty hard,” Roland told school officials, referring to his outspoken opposition to the schools merger and his support of suburban towns and cities forming their own school districts.
“When they turned it into a kindergarten through fifth grade, it broke my heart,” said Roland, who attended Jeter when it was K-8. “I’m just glad to see we’re putting it back. … I think it’s really the best thing for the community.”
He termed the Woodstock High School proposal an “excellent” idea.
There probably will be revisions to the North Shelby County part of the rezoning plan, including changes to the initial proposal to send students from the area to either Raleigh-Egypt or Craigmont high schools in the 2014-2015 academic year as Woodstock’s high school conversion prepares to debut the following school year.
Some board members last week urged Hopson to convert Woodstock in the upcoming academic year or, alternatively, to explore sending the children to Bolton High School or working out an interlocal agreement with Millington Schools system leaders for the year.
Parents at the Monday meeting echoed board members who predicted parents would try to keep their children at Millington Central High School and wouldn’t return to Shelby County Schools rather than send them to Raleigh-Egypt or Craigmont for a year.
In addition to students in the current Jeter school zone continuing to attend the school, the zoning changes include Jeter taking in sixth- through eighth-graders from the Memphis reserve who now attend Woodstock Middle, and sixth- through eighth-graders in another part of the northern Memphis annexation reserve who now attend Millington Middle School.
If all of the students who are zoned to Jeter in the new plan attend the school, Sharp estimated the school would only be at 80 percent of capacity and there would be room for students who apply through the open-enrollment process underway through early March.
Hopson said last week the current open-enrollment period will reopen once the school board approves an attendance zone plan.