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Parents stand in line to discuss rezoning and its affects on Gwin, Green Valley and Bluff Park elementary as well as Simmons Middle School.
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Parents stand and applaud Superintendent Kathy Murphy after she says Hoover City Schools could benefit from $12 million more in its annual budget.
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Parents stand in line to address Superintendent Kathy Murphy and other school officials on rezoning.
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One mother discusses her concerns on rezoning and how it will affect her sons at Green Valley Elementary.
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Hundreds attended a community meeting on rezoning on Feb. 18.
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Superintendent Kathy Murphy speaks at a community meeting on rezoning. The meeting included Simmons Middle School families and Gwin, Green Valley and Bluff Park elementary families and was held Feb. 18.
Parents offered up their concerns about how rezoning could affect their schools, communities and diversity at the most recent rezoning meeting.
The third of five rezoning meetings was held at Green Valley Baptist Church on Feb. 18, and parents from Gwin, Bluff Park and Green Valley elementary schools, as well as Simmons Middle School, gathered to discuss Superintendent Kathy Murphy’s rezoning plan for Hoover City Schools.
Sabrina Stephens, whose daughter is at Simmons Middle and will not be affected by rezoning, said that did not affect her concern about the rezoning plan. Stephens said she was concerned about the increase in the student population at Simmons.
“I assure you, we are going to welcome these students, but we want it to be a number that we can embrace,” Stephens said. “With 300 additional, almost 35 percent additional students, we want them all to get a good education for all of our students with enrichment opportunities.”
Trent Cowsert also had concerns about the number of students being rezoned for Simmons. Many audience members responded “no” when Cowsert asked if Simmons was truly at 62 percent capacity and could handle 300 more students.
A community meeting with Simmons Middle School and Gwin, Green Valley and Bluff Park elementary schools was held Feb. 18 to discuss rezoning.
He added that the school system could benefit more by using the money it has spent on legal and consulting fees to get rid of its unitary status and putting that money toward schools. The school system could also receive more money after August elections, he said.
“You and Andy Craig have done your job,” Cowsert said. “You have got our attention as citizens.”
Cowsert said he foresees a change in city officials following the election and believes the school system might have more money in its budget following those changes. Because of that, he asked the rezoning plan be delayed.
Murphy said obtaining unitary status is something the school system cannot put off, and delays could cause them to lose their spot in decision making.
After another resident asked if Hoover City Schools would follow a path other than rezoning if it had more money in its budget, Murphy declared the school system definitely needs more money and received standing applause from some audience members.
When asked for an exact figure, she said $12 million, but added that the meeting was not intended to be a forum to cause a rift between the school board and city council.
Parents with students at Green Valley Elementary also expressed concerns over the changes their school would face. With the change in students, Green Valley’s poverty level would increase from 46 percent to around 50 percent.
Diane Gillam, who has two children at Green Valley, said while her students will not be rezoned, she is concerned about the disparity in poverty levels across the school system. Greystone only has a poverty level around 6 percent, she said, while their level is increasing.
Students at Green Valley have already had their number of school trips or excursions limited due to concerns about other students not being able to afford those trips, Gillam said, and she is concerned that problem will only increase.
“How is that going to be helped with this change,” Gillam said. “It’s not. It’s going to diminish it.”
Changes also were not leading some schools to the ideal capacity Murphy discussed in previous meetings, Gillam said. While Bluff Park is at a high capacity, it is only seeing a change of 30 students; Greystone, on the other hand is seeing almost zero change.
“Some schools are having such dramatic changes, and I feel like some schools have just completely gotten away with no change,” Gillam said.
Bluff Park residents asked why their students should be affected by rezoning at all.
Emelio Cerice said students from the Bluff Park area are the only student or one of few students in their grade moving to a new school. He added that Bluff Park does not have any new developments in the works and while it is at a high capacity, it is not over capacity.
In the next few years, Cerice said, the student population will decrease and Bluff Park will not have as high of a capacity.
“Why is Bluff Park in the rezoning proposal,” he said. “And what benefit is obtained by taking these children and moving them from one school to another?”
Other Bluff Park residents expressed concerns over their streets being seemingly cherry-picked to go to a new school, sending students from a school within two miles of their home to one that is more than five miles away.
Kevin Speed, who has a daughter at Bluff Park, said the change in distance between their homes and schools also led to traffic concerns for parents. He presented Murphy with a petition from neighbors who opposed the rezoning.
“My question is who is going to protect us, people who feel like we live in a community-based school and are being bused out of our neighborhoods,” said Bluff Park parent Sharon Pierson.
Gwin residents also voiced concerns on community-based schools. They said many students who are within walking distance of Gwin Elementary will be moved to other schools, a factor of the rezoning plan they said did not make much sense.
As parents expressed their dislike of the proposal, Murphy said that the rezoning plan is not a final version and they would listen to parents’ concerns and bring those to the table during future discussions.
Many Gwin parents echoed concerns that were voiced at Tuesday’s meeting, saying that while the federal court, U.S. Department of Justice and NAACP Legal Defense Fund may have concerns over diversity, Gwin is already a diverse school.
“Gwin is a model for diversity that should be celebrated, not dismantled,” said Krista McCain, whose two sons attend Gwin.
Deena Williams, whose son is at Trace Crossings, said she was concerned with discussion that categorized families in apartments as automatically impoverished.
“Living in an apartment, being black does not make you poor,” she said.
She added that focusing on race also was not the answer, and students should be able to remain at their schools rather than moving groups of students in apartments or minority students from school to school. Williams asked to just “get over” the past issues.
“Trying to get over that is exactly what getting over this unitary status is about,” Murphy said. “Because we are in 2016, this is a 1965 desegregation court order and we just, at least as I understand it … our current judge is not going to allow this thing to continue to sit out there.”
Murphy said her rezoning proposal would shift an estimated 2,500 students to a new school attendance zone for the next school year, though all students in grades 8-11 would have the option to stay in their current high school zone, and students in grades 1 and 4 would have an option to remain at their current school for one more year. See more about Murphy's rezoning proposal here.
School officials will have two more meetings for the public to give feedback on her rezoning proposal, including an extra one that has been added for Monday night due to a conflict at Hoover High School. Here is the schedule for those meetings:
- Monday, Feb. 22, 6-8 p.m., Gwin Elementary School, 1580 Patton Chapel Road
- Tuesday, Feb. 23, 6-8 p.m., Spain Park High School, 4700 Jaguar Drive (for families from Spain Park High, Berry Middle and Riverchase, Rocky Ridge, Greystone and Shades Mountain elementary schools)
This article was updated Feb. 19 at 9:32 a.m. to include more input from Green Valley Elementary School parents.