published Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Parents get say in Hamilton County school rezoning plan

About 100 people turned out for a Board of Education work session Tuesday. Some had messages on their vehicles calling for rethinking a rezoning proposal.
About 100 people turned out for a Board of Education work session Tuesday. Some had messages on their vehicles calling for rethinking a rezoning proposal.
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Parents have spoken, and Hamilton County Schools leaders say they're listening.

School board members said they wanted to see parental input before moving forward with a rezoning plan for schools in East Hamilton County. More than 100 community members attended a Tuesday board work session centered on the issue.

Families upset over the rezonings have begun organizing in person and online since the plan was unveiled late last month. Parents have flooded county and school officials with hundreds of phone calls and emails. One group of parents and students even staged a small protest at the school system's central office last week. The phrase "rethink, not rezone," was drawn on the windows of many cars in Tyner's parking lot Tuesday.

Board Chairman Mike Evatt said he wants to create a community committee to examine and study the zoning plan, which was created by school system administrators but not yet voted on by the board. Drawing representation from each of seven areas proposed to be rezoned, Evatt said the group would provide valuable parental involvement before the board moves forward.

"We've heard you, we've listened to you and we want to engage you in conversation and discussion," Evatt said.

Ryan Ledford, one of the most vocal opponents of the plan, will be responsible for finding parents to serve on the committee.

Officials said the board won't vote on the rezoning at the regular meeting Thursday. Superintendent Rick Smith said he'd like the committee to wrap up its work before the board's April meeting. He said the more notification rezoned families have, the better.

"If we get it any later than April then we really are doing a disservice to parents who are going to be making tough decisions," he said.

Parents have criticized the board and school officials for not being transparent about their plans and not including families in the process. But several board members noted that this process is similar to those used on several rezonings completed in recent years.

Board member Chip Baker said all rezonings are difficult for families, but he said parents need to be involved in the process.

"I think what's bothered me in this process so much is the way we did it," he said. "At least we're now at a point where were getting community input."

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about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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