Task force says rezoning plan should zone downtown to Pearl-Cohn

Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 2:36am

No decisions were made, but conversation at a Metro school rezoning task force meeting Wednesday indicated that several booming downtown neighborhoods — including Germantown, Hope Gardens, Salemtown and the Gulch — will remain part of the Pearl-Cohn cluster in the task force’s final proposal to the Board of Education.

Seven members of the 11-person task force met to discuss community feedback relating to a proposed Metro Nashville Public Schools student assignment plan that would shuffle thousands of Metro students. The plan could be proposed to the school board as early as June 24. Only the board can approve the plan, which would take effect no earlier than the 2009-2010 school year.

Residents of downtown urban core neighborhoods are currently zoned to the Hillsboro cluster. Several of the affected neighborhood associations have protested that zoning kids in these areas to the expanded Pearl-Cohn cluster — which is expected to include predominantly African-American and economically disadvantaged children — will harm home values in these developing areas.

Task force member Don Majors said after the meeting that revising the proposal to keep these kids in the Hillsboro cluster would contradict the task force’s intentions.

“If we change it back, … it would violate the purpose of the whole plan,” Majors said.

Task force members also decided to host three additional public hearings, to be held in the clusters most affected by the plan. The task force had initially planned for a single public hearing, which was held last week. The three additional hearings will be scheduled this week, and will take place at Fall-Hamilton Elementary, John Early Middle and Hillwood High.

Proposed plan would mean big changes

The plan proposed by the task force would bring Nashville much closer to having primarily neighborhood schools. It eliminates noncontiguous zones — areas of town where kids are transported to schools outside of their immediate vicinity — and creates, instead, “choice zones.” Families could choose whether to attend schools nearby or across town.

The proposed plan nearly doubles the geographic area feeding into Pearl-Cohn High. The cluster, if created, would have a percentage of African-American students that is higher than district average, and a percentage of students receiving free and reduced meals that is slightly higher than district average.

Two out of three elementary schools in the cluster would have elementary schools in which 93 percent of students receive free and reduced meals; the third, 83 percent. At Pearl-Cohn High, 91 percent of students would be African-American, compared to 88 percent currently.

The cluster would include kids from a low-income North Nashville area who are currently zoned to a more affluent part of Bellevue. It would also include several urban core neighborhoods currently assigned to the Hillsboro cluster — Germantown, Salemtown, Hope Gardens, and the Gulch. These areas have been revitalized in recent years to include middle- to upper-class residents, and developers have invested millions in the neighborhoods’ growth potential.

For complete, street-by-street details, visit mnps.org.

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By: frank brown on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Neighborhood schools are a thing of the past. This will never be allowed by the liberals and the free lunch & welfare crowd.

By: lynfh on 12/31/69 at 6:00

If we go back to neighborhood schools, cutting down on driving and bringing communities together at their epicenters there will be dissatisfaction no matter the decision. So why not allow any family that qualifies for free or reduced lunch the opportunity to send their kid to any school in Metro?

By: JeffF on 12/31/69 at 6:00

These downtown (inner-city developments) are not family-oriented so this will effect virtually zero actual kids. Anyway, what is the point of gentrifying the inner-city if you get to avoid the inner-city schools? Looks like realtors are looking for an external source to move blame to for the condo crash.

By: adf on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Kudos to the task force for standing firm on this. The task force's plan is something that many believe is a good thing for the city as a whole, resulting in better utilization of facilities and resources, and more community involvement. I can't believe some downtown developers think that their property values are important enough to risk tanking a plan that is best for most of the city.

By: airvols on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Watch the private schools get larger, you can force busing but you can't force choice. Just a fact, I don't ageee with the private answer, but it is a reality.

By: NewYorker1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

I'm soooo happy I don't have any kids in the Nashville public school system. It seems so screwed up. I couldn't imagine being a kid and having to go through all these changes all the time. The school system here just seems so confused, mismanaged, and absolutely no solid leadership. Thank goodness my father is a doctor and sent me to private schools. The public school system seems really screwed up.

By: howelln on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Actually, there are usually open seats at Hillsboro each year so any one who applies and provides their own transportation can go. Same thing for Pearl-Cohn.