Photo by Karim Shamsi-Basha.
Some Bluff Park Elementary students could be rezoned to a neighboring school to help redistribute student population growth in the area.
Elementary student populations are shifting, and lines could be redrawn for Hoover City Schools next year to accommodate the changes.
“I know for some folks it feels like we shouldn’t have to rezone, but in our community we are in this continuous growth,” Hoover City Schools Superintendent Andy Craig said. “There are going to be times along the way where we are going to have to realign ourselves, re-balance things, and hopefully we do that in such a way that it looks forward as well, so we won’t have to do this more often than we would otherwise.”
Craig said he hopes to have a final draft of the rezoning proposal ready by the Sept. 8 Hoover Board of Education meeting, so that residents can provide additional feedback before any proposal is given a vote. He said he is working collaboratively to put the district in a position to provide quality education for a long period of time for all students.
“You want to be able to run the programs effectively,” Craig said. “In elementary schools, for example, you have that core classroom, and you want those people/teacher ratios to be reasonable.”
Craig believes that stressed schools can negatively affect a student’s education and programs such as the arts, computer and science labs, enrichment programs and special education services. When a school reaches capacity, regular classrooms can take over space previously used for these programs.
As word of possible rezoning within the school system spread, Bluff Park parents and residents responded by forming Bluff Park United, a Facebook group that now has around 540 members.
Stephen Hertz, head of Bluff Park United, said the original purpose of the group was to spread information to get the community involved with the rezoning issue. One of the group’s biggest concerns is the disproportion of resources being divided among the schools.
“Every other school is gaining something in resources or any number of things,” Hertz said. “Bluff Park is kind of at the end of the line of dominos, and we are being taken from.”
Parents of current Bluff Park Elementary students met with Craig in a closed meeting Aug. 11. During the community meeting, Craig provided some realignment maps for each of the nine areas that could possibly be affected.
“The proposed rezoning plan takes one of the oldest communities, in one of the oldest parts of the city, and cuts it in half,” Hertz said. “It goes against all the reasons people move to Bluff Park.”
After meeting with several community groups such as Bluff Park and Ross Bridge, Craig released a statement rescinding the maps released by Hoover City Schools on Aug. 18.
“We have and will continue to listen to our community and stakeholders in the development of our student assignment proposal,” Craig said. “We are currently in the iteration phase of plan design. The forthcoming revision will likely be narrower in scope and result in change for fewer students, families and schools while remaining focused on community values such as capacity utilization, economic and ethnic diversity, fiscal responsibility and positioning Hoover City Schools to best serve all students into the future.”
The new plan has not yet been released but will likely follow the initial focus on allowing for anticipated growth and in the most cost-efficient manner. Utilizing the city’s existing space would defer costs that would come from opening a new building.
Because the rezoning would affect the 2015-2016 school year, Craig said he wants enough lead time for the potential change to help students and parents with the transition.
“If we are on course to have that proposal ready by the September [meeting], it would not be submitted for a vote at that time,” Craig said. “There would be a time frame for feedback and consideration of that feedback.”
Overall, in realigning Hoover City Schools, Craig hopes to anticipate where future growth will be in order to make realignments like this less frequent.
“It really would be disappointing if folks wanted to leave their school, so I think it’s one of the best attributes of this community,” Craig said. “They care very deeply about education. They place a very high premium on it, and expect it. All those are good, healthy things for a community to have.”