Map courtesy of Hoover City Schools
Revised HV school rezoning map 3-3-16
This map shows revisions to proposed Hoover City Schools elementary school attendance zones for the 2016-17 school year. The proposal still requires approval by the school board and federal court to take effect.
Hoover school officials tonight released revisions to their plan to redraw school attendance zones with multiple changes in response to parental concerns.
Several communities that had been slated to change school zones next year under Superintendent Kathy Murphy’s original rezoning proposal put out a month ago now are being recommended to remain at their current school.
Based on a preliminary review of maps provided by school officials tonight, it appears that The Preserve community will stay in the Gwin Elementary School zone (instead of being rezoned to Trace Crossings), Chace Lake will stay at Riverchase Elementary (instead of being rezoned to Trace Crossings) and most of the Brock’s Gap sectors of the Trace Crossings community will stay at Trace Crossings Elementary (instead of being rezoned to South Shades Crest Elementary).
Those communities were some of the most vocal about being taken out of what they considered to be their neighborhood schools.
There also appear to be other changes in the rezoning plan from what was announced a month ago based on a look at the new zoning maps on the school system website. But a complete list of changes was not provided, and efforts to reach Murphy for comment tonight so far have been unsuccessful.
More than 2,200 students proposed to be rezoned
The revised plan released tonight still calls for at least 2,224 students to be transferred to a new school zone in the 2016-17 school year. Murphy said in a news release that this is the proposal she will present to the school board Monday night, and the school board is expected to vote on the proposal at that time.
If the school board approves the plan, it then will be presented to U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala for her review, as are any proposed changes in school attendance zones. A public hearing is scheduled in Haikala’s courtroom on April 7-8.
The actual number of students who will switch to schools they would not otherwise attend probably will be less than 2,224, however, because school officials have proposed to “grandfather” some students and let them stay in their current school zones.
When Murphy first presented her rezoning proposal a month ago, she wanted to “grandfather” all students in grades 8-11 to let them stay in their current high school zone. She also has proposed to allow students in grades 1, 4 and 7 to remain at their current school for one more year if they so choose.
However, any students choosing “grandfather” status would not be eligible for school bus transportation.
Mixed reviews from parents
Reactions among parents are varied.
Chris Hamer, a spokesman for the Chace Lake community, said people in Chace Lake are very happy that Murphy and school officials listened to concerns expressed by residents in community meetings, emails and surveys.
He believes his community used strong, fact-based arguments to demonstrate that it is much more geographically conducive for students from Chace Lake to attend Riverchase than Trace Crossings. And it would not have a negative impact from a demographic standpoint to let Chace Lake students remain at Riverchase because the community is 66 percent white, 10 percent black and 24 percent other races, Hamer said.
It was also very important to them to remain in the Berry Middle and Spain Park High School zones instead of being rezoned to Simmons Middle and Hoover High, he said.
“There were a lot of soon-to-be Spain Park Jags looking at trading in their blue for orange and black,” he said. “From a kids’ perspective, it was a little disheartening.”
Now, they’re happy it looks like they won’t have to do that, he said.
However, he realizes there still are other people — including numerous parents from Riverchase Elementary — who won’t be happy with the revised plan.
Communities such as Southlake, Quail Run and Valley Station still are slated to be rezoned from Riverchase to Rocky Ridge Elementary.
Parents from those communities detailed arguments against rezoning their children to Rocky Ridge in a community meeting last week, but apparently they weren’t enough to sway school officials.
Under this proposal, families in Quail Run will be farther away from their elementary school than anyone else in Hoover, parent Sandy Ritchey said. “We are now almost 11 miles away, two interstates away,” she said, noting they will have to travel on both Interstate 65 and Intersrtate 459 to get to Rocky Ridge.
“We are sad about leaving Riverchase, but we know that we’re going to a great school. That’s the plus in the situation for us,” said Ritchey, a former assistant principal at Gwin who now is a literacy coach at Crestline Elementary in Mountain Brook and Mountain Brook’s new elementary teacher of the year. “We know our kids will be in good hands.”
However, one of Nicholas and Sandy Ritchey’s four children, 9-year-old Isabella, will remain at Riverchase because she is in the fourth grade and qualifies to stay there for her final year in elementary school, Ritchey said.
They let her decide, and she wanted to stay, so they’ll be taking their children to two elementary schools every day, she said.
Trace Crossings changes
Shilpa Gaggar, treasurer of the Trace Crossings Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, said many Trace Crossings residents are excited at the prospect of keeping most of the homes in the Brock’s Gap sector of Trace Crossings — on the west side of Stadium Trace Parkway — at Trace Crossings instead of having those homes rezoned to South Shades Crest. And they are glad to get the multi-family part of Trace Crossings — the Ridge Crossings apartment complex across Alabama 150 — back at Trace Crossings, as it was more than 10 years ago, she said.
Ridge Crossings was rezoned to Deer Valley Elementary in 2004 and was slated to go to South Shades Crest under Murphy’s original rezoning proposal last month but now is recommended for Trace Crossings again.
Trace Crossings parents are disappointed to see the Creekside sector of their community — the part closest to South Shades Crest Road — rezoned to South Shades Crest Elementary, she said.
It appears that students graduating from Trace Crossings still will be split up between Bumpus and Simmons middle schools under the new plan, but at least the students will be split more evenly under the revised plan, Gaggar said.
“We don’t know exactly what went on in negotiations, but it does seem like they did listen to what we were saying,” Gaggar said.
Starla Wilkins, president of the Gwin Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, said parents at Gwin also have mixed feelings.
“We’re super glad to have some of our friends back but very sad to see that not everyone got put back into Gwin,” Wilkins said. “We feel incomplete.”
It appears that the Highland Crest and Pinewood communities and some homes along Al Seier Road still are slated to be rezoned from Gwin to Trace Crossings, but it’s hard to tell exactly where the dividing line is on the maps, Wilkins said.
“I really think they did listen and worked especially hard to make as many Hoover City Schools residents happy,” she said. “We went into this knowing that everyone wasn’t going to come out happy, but I think they did their best effort.”
Ritchey agreed and said school officials had hard decisions to make. “It is what it is, and we’ll have to make the best of it,” Ritchey said.
Parents can go to hooverrezoning.com to see the revised maps and accompanying information about how the rezoning changes will affect the racial makeup of each school and the utilization of each school building.
Parents also can type their street address into a school locator tool to see which schools their children would be slated to attend, absent any “grandfathering.”
This article was updated at 9:30 p.m. with quotes from Quail Run parent Sandy Ritchey.