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VOL. 129 | NO. 36 | Friday, February 21, 2014

Changes Likely in Attendance Zones Proposal

By Bill Dries

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The set of two dozen proposed attendance zone changes affecting nearly 7,000 students in Shelby County unveiled this week by Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson is the first step on the road to certainty for parents of children in the consolidated system that is about to break into seven public systems.

The Shelby County Schools board is considering a set of attendance zone changes that affect almost 7,000 children for the new school year that begins in August.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

Public hearings on the proposal are still to come and probably some changes as well based on comments from school board members at their Wednesday, Feb. 19, work session. The school board could vote on the attendance zone changes at the end of March.

With changes approved, parents can begin to weigh their options for rolling with the changes in the attendance zones or trying for available open spaces in the six suburban school systems that plan to open in August for the 2014-2015 school year.

Hopson also announced that Shelby County Schools will have a second round of the “general choice transfer” process where parents can apply for available slots in any school that has the capacity. The current period began this week. But the attendance zones approved by the board in late March will likely affect choices parents make.

Most of the proposals by Hopson are adjustments related to the coming formation of separate school systems in the six suburban towns and cities in Shelby County.

With the opening of the suburban school systems, the county district becomes a grouping of schools and students within Memphis as well as unincorporated parts of Shelby County. Many of the changes affect students in unincorporated Shelby County who currently attend schools that will become part of the suburban school systems in August.

Hopson’s plan moves to a set of at least five public hearings starting Monday, Feb. 24, at E.E. Jeter Elementary School, one of several schools whose structure will change in the proposal.

Jeter would become a grades K-8 school next school year.

Woodstock Middle School would remain open for the next school year. But with the 2015-2016 school year, it would become a high school. It would be the successor to the Woodstock High School that was open from 1913 to 1970.

The problem, as several board members saw it, is the plan for 412 students of the new Woodstock High the school year before it is scheduled to open.

There are 149 Millington Central High School students living in Shelby Forest who would be rezoned to Craigmont High.

Another 263 Millington High students from Northaven would attend Raleigh-Egypt High School.

Hopson and his staff originally considered sending the students to Trezevant High School but changed the plan just before Tuesday night’s presentation to the board.

Parents have more choices, including charter schools, private schools and the emerging open enrollment plans in the suburban schools and transfers within Shelby County Schools. Because of that, school board member David Reaves argued the interim year at Raleigh-Egypt and Craigmont could cost Shelby County Schools students who wouldn’t come back the following school year.

“It’s tough,” Reaves said.

“I agree,” Hopson replied. “Everyone that I spoke with – this is the rock in the shoe. Our options are send all these students to Bolton and overcrowd Bolton. The principal at Bolton was concerned about neighborhood rivalries and safety issues. … There’s really not an ideal solution here.”

“The biggest concern I have is the quality of education that these kids are used to getting to what they are getting ready to get. I just can’t see that this is in the best interest of the kids,” Reaves added.

As Hopson talked of pursuing some kind of interlocal agreement for the students to continue attending Millington Central next school year, school board member Billy Orgel asked if Woodstock High School could be ready to open in August.

“Nothing is impossible. I found that out over the last year,” Hopson said. “Am I confident that we could put together a program that would be comparable to what the students are used to, in this short period of time? I’m not certain.”

School board member David Pickler said Bolton could and has handled a student body of as many as 2,800 compared to the projected enrollment post de-merger of 1,800.

“You will get almost no one who will go along with you on those two schools,” Pickler said of the plan involving Raleigh-Egypt and Craigmont. “There are cultural issues. There’s a lot of things going on. I would encourage you to reconsider Bolton.”

By the end of the discussion, Hopson said “the better option” sounded like trying to open the new Woodstock High School in August or try to work out an interlocal agreement will Millington Schools leaders.

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