Photo by Jon Anderson
Hoover school rezoning meeting 2 10-8-15
Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy speaks to parents and other community members about school rezoning in a meeting at Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, Ala., on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.
Students at Hoover’s two high schools most likely won’t have to worry about being rezoned to a different school because of the current rezoning effort, Superintendent Kathy Murphy emphasized to parents in a community meeting tonight.
In most cases, it’s best to avoid forcing students to move to a new school once they reach the high school level, Murphy told the 140 or so parents and community members who showed up for the rezoning meeting at Hunter Street Baptist Church.
In high school, students often get more attached to athletic teams and academic and extracurricular activities than they do in the lower grades, she said.
“I’m 99 percent sure that hopefully we will not in this plan have any impact on our two high schools,” she said. “But the potential exists for most of our schools to be impacted.”
Parents should be open to the possibility of switching school zones as Hoover seeks to better align its student population with the capacity in existing school buildings and to better balance out students demographically, Murphy said.
However, she emphasized that both she and the U.S. Department of Justice are highly in favor of the idea of “community schools.”
Neither of them wants to pull groups of students out of their natural geographic areas and send them off to a distant school just to balance out school demographics, she said. Sometimes, that ends up penalizing the students by making them travel farther instead of helping them, she said.
Deena Williams, the parent of a student at Trace Crossings Elementary, said she didn’t like the idea that a previous rezoning plan considered a year ago would have moved her and other black families in her apartment complex to a different school because some people felt their school was becoming too concentrated with black students.
“I don’t feel we should have to leave so everyone else can come in,” Williams said.
Photo by Jon Anderson
Hoover school rezoning meeting 2 10-8-15 (3)
Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy, at right, listens to comments from a South Shades Crest Elementary School parent during a school rezoning meeting at Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, Ala., on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.
Several parents at tonight’s meeting echoed the desire to keep students close to home.
Guy Locker, who lives in the Martinwood community off Shades Crest Road, said he especially wouldn’t like the idea of rezoning children who leave Simmons Middle School to Spain Park High School instead of Hoover High School – an idea that was considered in the last couple of years.
He would love for his children to go to Spain Park if he lived on that side of town, but he doesn’t, he said.
Hoover High parent Sandy Johnson shared that sentiment. “As the mother of a teen driver, this community school thing is very important to me,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of teenage drivers, and it’s a long way to the other high school.”
Murphy tonight also emphasized to parents that they don’t need to worry so much about there being a difference in quality among Hoover schools because school officials want to ensure an excellent education is offered at every Hoover school.
“We are a school district, not a district of individual schools,” Murphy said. “We’re in this together. Every one of our schools needs to be an outstanding school.”
Tonight’s meeting at Hunter Street Baptist was geared primarily for parents at Hoover High, Bumpus Middle and Trace Crossings and South Shades Crest elementary schools, and numerous parents who spoke tonight emphasized that traffic is a major issue when it comes to rezoning.
Wayne Seals, who has children at South Shades Crest, Bumpus and Hoover, said he’s not concerned about a difference in quality among Hoover schools.
“I have faith in Hoover schools and the teachers,” he said. “It’s really all to me about transportation. Traffic is a huge concern.”
School officials making decisions about rezoning need to drive the same routes that parents have to drive, and they need to do it during peak times in both the morning and afternoon, parents said. Murphy promised they would do that.
Dan Fulton, a retired teacher from Birmingham City Schools who lives in Hoover, said school officials should consider the need for a third high school as they look at rezoning options now. Hoover High School, with about 2,900 students this year, is much too large, Fulton said. Hoover can afford to build a third high school, he said, promoting the idea for an additional 1 percent to be added to the city’s sales tax. That could generate $20 million a year for Hoover City Schools, he said.
Photo by Jon Anderson
Hoover school rezoning meeting 2 10-8-15 (2)
About 140 people showed up for a meeting about rezoning for Hoover City Schools at Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, Ala., on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.
Several Hoover High parents said, however, that they don’t mind Hoover High being so large.
“I’m not afraid of a big high school,” Johnson said. “It has served our family very well.”
Her older children, when they went to college, had already learned how to plug into a smaller group within a larger community, she said.
Murphy said some people have asked her why she felt the need to have community meetings again when meetings held by former Superintendent Andy Craig stirred up so much controversy and emotions.
Murphy said she needs to hear directly from parents before making a rezoning recommendation.
There are three more preliminary community meetings set for Oct. 19, Nov. 3 and Nov. 12, and Murphy also plans to meet with faculty from each school between now and the end of the year.
She hopes to have a rezoning plan ready to submit for public review in January at a new round of community meetings and then have a plan for the school board to consider by February or March, she said. The goal is to have the school board approve a rezoning plan by March or April so parents can have as much advance notice for the 2016-17 school year, she said.
For now, parents and community members can email feedback about rezoning concerns and ideas to school officials at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about rezoning can be found at www.hooverrezoning.com.