Metro Schools thinks the time is right to re-examine its rezoning plan.
There has not been a district-wide rezoning plan in several years but now with some low-enrollment schools and some overcrowded ones, the district looks to make changes as the system and School Board begins the process of adjusting its student cluster plan.
School district officials said they were finalizing recommendations yesterday, as the entire rezoning proposal will be presented to the Board of Education at its meeting tonight.
An official proposal was not released late yesterday.
Board member George Thompson thinks there are several catalysts for the new proposal including schools operating under capacity or below the maximum number of students, a desire for students to attend schools closer to their homes, and a need to reduce transportation costs.
One Metro parent said she has been concerned about enrollment at her child’s school, Westmeade Elementary, this year and is anxious to see the new plan.
“We’ve conscientiously chosen to remain [in Metro Schools] because we want to make a difference and we want our kids to be exposed to the diversity,” said Cindy Smith, a parent of five Metro schoolchildren.
Westmeade has seen a decline in enrollment over the years of nearly 31 percent from 446 students in 2002-03 to 309 this year. Harpeth Valley Elementary, in the same cluster (a district-drawn geographical boundary) with Westmeade, however, has seen an increase in enrollment by about 5 percent — enough to warrant building an addition to the school — over the same period of time.
It is this unbalance in the cluster that upsets Smith, she said, and why she is looking forward to the new rezoning plan.
“We want students at Westmeade, we don’t want to be under capacity,” she said. “We want to be able to care for the students in our neighborhood and other students in our zone. It just seems to be an irresponsible use of tax dollars to build when you’ve got schools in the same cluster, two miles down the road, that are standing empty.”
Following the board’s first review of the plan, community members will be allowed to weigh in on the plan, according to Larry Collier, director of Student Assignment Services for the school district.
He said district officials would be meeting with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, the Metro Council and members from the community in the coming weeks.
The school district hopes to have a solid plan by December, a timeline Thompson said might be unrealistic.
He said because the issue is so important, to the point that this new plan could create segregated school once again, it needs more examination.
“It’s premature for me to say but I think this thing needs a whole lot more attention than to put it on a greased, fast track, and all of a sudden get ourselves in a crack,” Thompson said. “I really have some concern as to whether we’re premature and whether we’re a year or two early on dealing with this sensitive issue.”
The board member is concerned that the new plan could cause the school district to revert back to old zoning patterns that led them into two segregation lawsuits.
Although Metro Schools has never used race as a factor for integrating its schools, according to district officials, it did undergo several phases of attempted integration with two court cases beginning in 1995 with Robert Kelly v. Board of Education of Nashville and in 1960 with Maxwell v. County Board of Education of Davidson County.
Eventually in 1971 the courts ruled that Metro would use cross-town busing as a means of integration and the system was just released of that requirement in 1998.
The school board meets at 5 p.m. at Metro Schools administrative office, 2601 Bransford Ave.