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VOL. 129 | NO. 47 | Monday, March 10, 2014

Cordova Parents Question Attendance Zone Changes

By Bill Dries

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Parents in Cordova are used to the complexities of school system boundaries. They’ve lived with them for years, with part of the area within the city of Memphis and the other part in unincorporated Shelby County.

Cordova parents used to being on the borderline of school systems are expressing frustrations with the latest changes in school assignments.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

That made Cordova the dividing line between Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools before the two systems merged.

With schools from each system in close proximity to one another along a border that changed as the city of Memphis annexed parts of Cordova, uncertainty about school assignments has been a constant for homeowners.

“We bought our homes because of where we were told we could go to school,” one parent said Thursday, March 6, at the latest hearing by Shelby County Schools officials on the proposed rezoning of attendance zones.

The hearing was long on explanations from school board members and school system staff on why Cordova students will be leaving schools that become part of the new Collierville and Germantown Schools systems in August.

The short explanation is the demerger of Shelby County’s six suburbs into separate school systems. The separation follows the only year in which there has been one public school system covering the entire county, including the suburbs. All of the changes are the results of referendums in Memphis and then each suburb.

“And you didn’t get to vote on any of this,” Shelby County School board member Teresa Jones said to the parents, most of whom live in the unincorporated part of Cordova or the South Cordova area Memphis annexed last year.

In the demerger, all of Cordova remains in the Shelby County Schools system, but some students will change schools.

The session at Cordova High School dealt specifically with the proposed changes in Cordova attendance zones for the new school year.

Cordova children attending Riverdale K-8 school in Germantown would go to Germantown Elementary School if they live south of Bazemore Road, while those living north of Bazemore would attend Cordova Elementary School. Older children in both sections would then attend Germantown Middle School and Germantown High School.

Cordova children now at Bailey Station Elementary School in Collierville would go to Highland Elementary instead, and older children would remain at Germantown Middle and Germantown High.

Germantown Elementary, Middle and High are not part of the new Germantown Schools system, making the explanation more complex.

“I’m at a loss for words,” said the mother of seven who lives in unincorporated Cordova. “It’s very scary and very painful. … It’s enough to bring a parent to tears.”

“Are you guys talking to each other?” another mother asked Shelby County Schools leaders, referring to conversations among the seven public school systems.

“On some issues,” replied Jones, who explained the suburban school systems have their own elected boards that make their own decisions. “There are going to be situations. … That’s what it comes down to – which group of children are you representing.”

Fellow school board member Billy Orgel reacted to some parents who blamed the uncertainty on Memphis elected leaders.

“They all went for their own school districts,” Orgel said of suburban leaders and voters. “As parents, we are at the mercy of the municipalities. … I don’t understand why we have to make these lines and divide it black and white. You can call it what you want, but that’s 95 percent of it.”

There were a lot of questions about open-enrollment options for Cordova students who want to remain in the Shelby County Schools system. SCS officials and staff couldn’t answer for the suburban school systems but said those systems will have open enrollment on a space-available basis, like Shelby County Schools. They also added that open enrollment in the Germantown system would come with a $200 annual tuition fee per child, a requirement the Germantown Schools board approved last week. The Collierville Schools board approved a no-tuition open-enrollment policy a day after Germantown set its policy.

And the day after the public meeting at Cordova High, the Germantown Schools board met in special session and reversed the tuition policy for open enrollment.

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