Concerned parents and students packed the Walker County Board of Education town hall meeting last week as a petition circulated around the room asking for signatures of those opposed to the new rezoning map for the school system.
The petition was submitted to Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines at the close of the meeting. Raines said the petition appeared to have 25-30 signatures.
"We will go back and review the rezoning map," he said, adding he will take citizens' requests and consider whether any changes should be made. "We are looking at it and we might tweak some of the maps."
He said that principals at Walker County schools will assist in getting the word out about the rezoning by talking to parents in car rider lines. Walker County Schools' website and Facebook page will also serve as vehicles to spread the word about the rezoning.
Walker County School Board member Karen Stoker said her 12-year-old neighbor will be glad to be rezoned because she boards the bus at 6:30 a.m. from Kensington to Chattanooga Valley Middle School, a trip that takes the student an hour or more. In the afternoons her neighbor does not return home on the bus until 5 p.m. or later, she said - an hour and 45 minute-trip.
"That's a long day for a 12-year-old," said Stoker, adding that her neighbor will be rezoned for Saddle Ridge School. "This redistricting will put her a lot closer to her new school."
Raines said part of the need to rezone spurred from overcrowding at Cherokee Ridge Elementary. He does not like seeing students in portables in the school system either due to high winds that the county experiences sometimes, he said.
He stressed that students can remain in their current schools instead of moving to their rezoned location if their parents can provide transportation to take them to their current zoned school consistently.
A grandmother from the Cove area in Chickamauga who wished to remain anonymous, said she is upset that her grandchildren will have to move from Ridgeland High School, a 15-minute drive from their home, to LaFayette High School, a 30-minute drive. She said she believes it's an issue of gasoline and buses for the school system. She said the school system would like parents to provide more transportation, but that puts a hardship on families. She said her daughter was laid off and is enrolled in school now.
"I have heard several high school students say if they have to change schools at this point that they will drop out," said the grandmother. "I have one grandchild in the Ridgeland High School Honors Academy and my other grandchild plays sports at Ridgeland. They want to stay with their friends and the people that they are used to. There's a lot of upset children. Their bus driver told them that their bus would be going to a different school soon.
"The first time that we can't provide transportation, they will go to the new zoned school. I guess we will have to buy them a car."