At the Tuesday meeting a best case time line for completing the middle school was quoted as three years. That should be what everyone focuses on beating. The parents are energized, attentive, and getting the attention of their elected officials. Don’t waste that attention and opportunity on a doomed zoning proposal. Instead, look to a winning proposition. We need to champion and build the middle school.
The parents have every right to be concerned and to voice those concerns when presented with the zoning proposals. Especially when the zoning proposals obviously favor some over others and no credible reason is provided for some of the decisions other than East Hamilton is overcrowded.
It is a fact that requests for data used as a basis for the rezoning were met at first with rejections, excuses, and eventually soft promises of future availability after the Thursday meeting in Ooltewah. Parents were also directed to see their principals to view packets containing the information (but principals were instructed to not allow copies to be made). This secretive manner of operation only heightens the sense of unfairness and collusion.
Today, copies of the proposed zoning maps were made available to the media ahead of the scheduled Ooltewah meeting. Unfortunately, no data used to generate the proposed zone changes has been released. One expects that existing and projected population/student densities (on a street by street basis), RPA assessments of future growth, along with existing and proposed bus routes/times were generated and used during the study. That data should and must be provided for public review if parents are expected to accept the zoning process as open and transparent.
Brief glimpses of the data used were captured during the Tuesday presentation but it did not always appear to support the zoning proposal. For example, the reported RPA assessment that pinpoints Ooltewah as the major future growth area makes transporting students to that location seem contradictory to the stated goal. It instead, makes the effort to seem short sighted to say the least. A full disclosure of the data is the only way to clear up these discrepancies and lead to understanding of the proposal.
If the Ooltewah growth projections are accurate, then in the end a zoning solution that will satisfy the ultimate goal, an elimination of overcrowding, is not possible. And the one solution that will come closest to reaching the goal is not being seriously pursued. The only way to actually solve the overcrowding problem and meet future needs is to build the originally planned separate middle school near East Hamilton. Without that school, all of the rezoning will fail and all of the schools will be overcrowded (probably in very short order). Unfortunately, the middle school building project is fairly low in priority to the school board, based on prioritization described at the presentation and previous articles in the news. But it is (past) time for the school board, the commission, and every other responsible entity to rapidly fund and build that school and quit trying to kick the can down the road.