Community Rezoning Meetings
• East Hamilton Middle/High School, 2015 Ooltewah-Ringgold Road; 6 p.m. Tuesday
• Ooltewah High School, 6123 Mountain View Road; 6 p.m. Thursday
School officials are bracing for large crowds at two rezoning meetings next week that will kick off the process of reshaping the attendance zone for the overcrowded East Hamilton Middle/High School.
At the meetings, administrators will unveil their plan on how to rezone the school as well as how they’ll incorporate two new planned elementary schools — a new Ooltewah Elementary and a new East Brainerd Elementary.
Officials have prepared proposed zone boundaries for East Hamilton but won’t release those plans until the meeting, set for Tuesday. They said they want families to attend the meetings to find out if and how they’ll be affected by the proposal.
It’s already clear that many parents are interested — or concerned — about the changes. Board of Education Chairman Mike Evatt said the school system’s central office has been bombarded with phone calls about East Hamilton’s zoning change.
“The East Hamilton folks are getting anxious to know something,” he said. “We’re trying to encourage parents to attend the zoning meeting because we just don’t have the manpower to answer all those personalized questions.”
Evatt said school administrators and board members will be on hand to answer questions and address concerns. They’ll have detailed maps so families can see what the proposal means for their neighborhood, he said.
“They should be able to get all their questions answered,” he said.
Some of the affected students may be grandfathered in to the new zone, but Evatt said the redrawn boundaries should cut down the number of middle school students, and that change eventually should trickle up into smaller high school classes. The rezoning will move some East Hamilton students to Ooltewah Middle and Hunter Middle, two schools that Evatt represents.
He said he hopes parents understand that the rezoning is necessary.
“We want to handle it very methodically and try to answer their questions and assure them that it’s nothing we’re doing to be punitive to people,” he said. “We’re doing it to utilize our buildings to their capacity.”
East Hamilton has about 2,000 students — well above the building’s projected capacity of 1,650. Classroom space is at such a premium, six high school teachers are without rooms, using carts to move from room to room, Assistant Principal Eddie Gravitte said. Some teachers have dedicated offices, while others are using storage closets.
“It’s an inconvenience for everyone,” he said. “We’re just trying to be flexible as a staff.”
Gravitte said teachers and school leaders are eager to see how the rezoning plays out.
“We’re still concerned about what’s going to happen, about students and families that we may lose or never receive,” he said. “It can be very unsettling any time you go through this in any community. But it’s a necessary step to take right now for the future of this school.”
District 7 school board representative Linda Mosley, who represents East Hamilton, said parents are aware of the overcrowding, but that doesn’t make the thought of their children potentially being transferred any easier.
“This is going to be hard. It’s going to be very personal and heartwrenching for all of us, including myself,” she said. “We’ve got to think about what’s best for the students and our ability to deliver a quality public education for all students.”
Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...