published Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Hill City students rezoned for Normal Park

Students in the Hill City neighborhood will now be included in the touted Normal Park Museum Magnet School zone.

Members of the Hamilton County School Board decided by a 5-4 vote last week to expand the zone to include the area of Bell and Spears avenues.

A special meeting of the board was called Nov. 3 so members could hear presentations from a Normal Park parent as well as a representative from the Hill City neighborhood before voting on the issue.

Hill City residents have been fighting to attend the school since Chattanooga Middle School was closed in 2007 and the board rezoned Hill City students to Red Bank schools, promising to expand the Normal Park zone to include Hill City in 2010.

“The school would have never been approved if that promise had not been made,” said School Board member Rhonda Thurman. “I was not going to let them have that school and zone all those kids out, and I think there would have been a lot more opposition to the school if they had been up front about not wanting to allow those kids into the school.”

With more students attending from inside the expanded zone, fewer students will be admitted to the magnet school through its lottery process.

“Over time, the influx of people that will come from Hill City or any expansion of the school zone is going to squeeze out the magnet component,” said Scott Shaw, speaking at the meeting on behalf of Normal Park parents.

Mitta Chestnut, who spoke for the Hill City neighborhood, said she was there to make sure the board follows through on the promise to her community. She suggested students be phased in gradually to ease concerns about overcrowding.

Schools Superintendent Rick Smith and his administrators are working on a plan for phasing in the students which will be presented to the School Board, said Thurman.

Hill City students who want to attend Red Bank schools, including the new $29 million Red Bank Middle School to be complete in August 2013, will be allowed to do so.

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