Hill City parents seek access for children to Normal Park

Hill City parents seek access for children to Normal Park

March 26th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Several Hill City residents want Hamilton County school board members to remember a commitment made to them that their children could attend Normal Park Museum Magnet School.

"The bottom line is we'd like them to follow through with the promise," said Nelson Barrios, a Hill City resident and father. He and other residents recently met at the North Chattanooga Recreation Center to discuss their desire for their children to attend the North Chattanooga elementary.

Board of Education members Joe Galloway and Rhonda Thurman, who attended the meeting, said they are willing to revisit the issue.

"I think we should do what we said we were going to do," Thurman said.

Galloway, who represents the Hill City area, said he wouldn't have any problems talking about the issue again. However, the school board's first priority is tackling next year's budget, he said. The fiscal year starts July 1.

He said a board member will need to request that the board revisit the Normal Park issue, then another board member will have to sign off on it.

Hill City resident Mitta Chestnutt said she felt betrayed by the school board.

"We elected you because we trusted you," she said. "Right now we feel like our little block doesn't matter."

Normal Park's attendance zone has been an issue for several years. In 2007 school board members voted to expand the zone to include all of Bell and Spears avenues in Hill City for this school year, according to newspaper archives. Interest in the Hill City area picked up. According to Assessor of Property records, more than 30 properties were sold in the area between 2007 and 2009.

But last year, Superintendent Jim Scales said because more families moved into the school zone, he would not expand the boundaries as promised.

"The problem is that our population grew tremendously. It has tripled in the past three years," Principal Jill Levine said.

School board member Chip Baker said sometimes projections don't materialize as expected.

"The thing I've always tried to emphasize is a projection is just that. When things actually take place then you have to adjust on actual performance," Baker said.

Levine said any Hill City student who wanted to attend Normal Park was given an opportunity to come. She said Hill City students all received letters sent home by the schools central office and by Red Bank elementary and middle schools.

But only 38 children chose to attend Normal Park, Levine said.