Hamilton County school board expands school choice for students

Atlas Lancaster, Gianna Dala, Riley Cotter, from left, work in their classroom Tuesday, January 10, 2016, at Rivermont Elementary School.

The Hamilton County school board has added seven open enrollment schools to more than 40 'choice' options across the district.

In a 6-2 vote Thursday, the board approved opening enrollment for any Hamilton County student regardless of their zone at Dalewood Middle, the new Howard Middle, Lookout Valley Middle/High, Red Bank Middle, Rivermont Elementary, Soddy-Daisy Middle and Woodmore Elementary.


› Dalewood Middle Schools› Howard Middle School (renamed Howard Connect Academy)› Lookout Valley Middle/High School› Red Bank Middle School› Rivermont Elementary School› Soddy-Daisy Middle School› Woodmore Elementary School

Chief of Schools Justin Robertson said the decision was made to help the district utilize buildings that are below 80 percent capacity, use staff as efficiently as possible and increase opportunities for students.

The move was made "to be sure that all kids have the opportunity to go to schools that provide their interests," Robertson said. "There are a lot of positives going on in Hamilton County schools that we need to celebrate."

The seven schools were added to a group of what the district is branding "My Future Schools," which include the Future Ready Institutes at 13 traditional high schools, 12 magnet schools and early college specialty programs like the Polytech Academy and Mechatronics Akademie at Volkswagen.

Principals will determine extra capacity and available seats at their schools and families will be able to apply to attend a school regardless of where their home is. Transportation will not be provided, though it is currently provided to students who attend the district's magnet schools. A set of guidelines for families and students, such as requiring parents to attend an orientation session at the beginning of the school year and behavior and academic expectations for students are in the works, Robertson said.

photo Soddy-Daisy Middle School is located in between the communities of Daisy and Soddy.

"These are Hamilton County's students, Hamilton County's children. Not one school's. It's Hamilton County's job to give every child in Hamilton County the opportunity for a great education," said District 6 board member Jenny Hill.

Some board members have been concerned that without autonomy to choose students, principals will get stuck with "problem students" who are not wanted at their zoned schools. They have called for clear guidelines for attending an out-of-zone school.

Superintendent Bryan Johnson said that saddling some schools with problem students was not the intention of the open enrollment decision.

"We want every school to be great. There is no desire whatsoever to move kids. We just believe in options. There are a lot of options that are already here," Johnson said.

Families will be able to apply for Future Ready Institutes, early college and open enrollment schools starting Feb. 1, 2019, through March 15. Placements will be announced April 1. The magnet school application window is currently open and will close Jan. 31, 2019.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.


› Jan. 14, 2019: Magnet school fair› Jan. 31: Magnet school application window closes› Feb. 1: Application window for Future Ready Institutes, early college and open enrollment schools open› Feb. 19: “My Future Schools” fair› Feb. 23: Magnet school placements announced› March 15: “My Future Schools” application window closes› April 1: “My Future Schools” placements announced* The district will also hold open houses throughout January and February. Those dates and locations are TBD. For more information, visit: www.hcde.org.