Photo by Jon Anderson.
Ron Dodson, an assistant superintendent for Hoover City Schools, points out locations on a school rezoning map during the March 7 meeting of the Hoover Board of Education in which the school board approved the superintendent’s final rezoning plan on a 4-0 vote.
After two years of planning and community debate, the Hoover school board is partnering with the U.S. Department of Justice and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to ask a federal judge to approve new school attendance zones.
The parties have reached an agreement on the rezoning plan OK’d by the Hoover school board on March 7 and now are asking U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala to approve it.
Haikala has scheduled a hearing on the rezoning plan for April 7-8. Hoover school officials hope she’ll approve the plan quickly so it can go into effect for the 2016-17 school year.
Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy said she realizes not everyone is happy with the rezoning plan, but school officials negotiated the best deal they could, considering the concerns of parents, the community and parties to the decades-old federal desegregation lawsuit.
“The advantage we have in Hoover City Schools is everyone loves their school, and they’re excited about their school and want to stay in their school, but rezoning is rezoning, and it dictates moves, and as a result of that, we’ve left some people very unhappy,” Murphy said. “Nevertheless, we had a charge and a task, and we’ve completed that.”
The rezoning plan, if approved by the federal court, could put nearly 2,500 children in a new school next year, school officials said. However, a significant number of those children could qualify to be “grandfathered” at their current school.
The “grandfathering” option is being offered to students in grades 8-11 to let them stay in their current high school zone through the end of high school. Students with only one year left at their current schools (grades 1, 4 and 7) also would have the option to stay for one more year. Parents would have to provide transportation for any “grandfathered” students.
Here are some other key aspects of the plan:
►South Shades Crest Elementary School would change from a K-4 school to a K-2 school, and Brock’s Gap Intermediate School, now with grades 5-6, would begin to serve students in grades 3-5 in the South Shades Crest Elementary School zone only.
►Trace Crossings and Deer Valley elementary schools, now serving grades K-4, would return as K-5 schools.
►Bumpus Middle School, now serving grades 7-8, would switch to a 6-8 school, similar to Berry and Simmons middle schools.
►Trace Crossings Elementary students would split up between Bumpus and Simmons middle schools but at more equal percentages than originally proposed. All of the students from Trace Crossings Elementary would reunite at Hoover High together.
Murphy modified her original rezoning proposal released in early February after taking input from residents in five community feedback meetings as well as via emails and a survey.
Among the changes from her original proposal:
►The Preserve neighborhood, north of Al Seier Road from Hurricane Branch to Heritage Park Drive, and the Highland Cove Townhomes were allowed to stay in the Gwin Elementary School zone instead of being rezoned to Trace Crossings Elementary.
►Four neighborhoods in the Brock’s Gap Parkway area (Chestnut Ridge, North Ridge, Scout Creek and Lake Trace) were allowed to stay in the Trace Crossings Elementary School zone instead of being rezoned to South Shades Crest Elementary. However, the Creekside subdivision in the Brock’s Gap section of the Trace Crossings community, the one closest to South Shades Crest Road, still was rezoned to South Shades Crest Elementary and Brock’s Gap Intermediate.
►The Ridge Crossings apartment complex, whose children currently are zoned for Deer Valley Elementary, would be rezoned to Trace Crossings Elementary instead of South Shades Crest Elementary and Brock’s Gap Intermediate.
►The Barrington on the Green apartment complex was allowed to stay in the Riverchase Elementary zone instead of being rezoned to Trace Crossings Elementary.
►The Chace Lake neighborhood would remain in the Riverchase Elementary zone instead of being rezoned to Rocky Ridge Elementary.
Residents in some of the communities that were rezoned, such as Crest Cove, Stone Brook and O’Neal Drive in the Bluff Park area, said they didn’t understand why in some cases small pockets of children were being moved.
Murphy said that, in isolation, some of the changes may seem like small pieces. But “every change that looks small, when those changes come together collectively, had a larger impact,” she said. “My role as superintendent is to look at the big picture, to look at the whole.”
For more details and maps of the rezoning plan, go to hooverrezoning.com.