About 150 homes and families will be rezoned from Ooltewah Elementary School to Snow Hill Elementary next year as Hamilton County Schools completes an addition to Snow Hill that adds 240 seats to the elementary school.
Currently, about 155 students live in areas of the current Ooltewah zone that are projected to be rezoned for Snow Hill under a draft proposal of zone lines, but some of those students will be moving on to middle school while others already attend other schools through hardship transfers.
Hamilton County Schools invites families to provide feedback on the redistricting of Ooltewah Elementary and Snow Hill Elementary’s attendance zones. To provide input, visit: www.hcde.org/redistricting.
"I understand how seriously and how big a deal it is to try to figure out the best school environment for a child to make sure they are positioned for success," said Superintendent Bryan Johnson at the first of two community input meetings about the rezoning Tuesday night. "When we look at redistricting as a school system, we take that very seriously. ... We look at how to do what's best for each child and what will be least disruptive."
The expansion of Snow Hill is one of several capital projects funded by $110 million in bond funds allocated by the Hamilton County Commission last year. The redistricting will allow the district to balance capacity at both schools as well as optimize resources, school leaders said.
With a current enrollment of 1,097 students, Ooltewah Elementary is at about 95 percent capacity, but the ideal capacity is closer to 80 percent, said Ben Coulter, director of information technology for the district, allowing for multipurpose spaces and space for art, music, computer and other labs.
"When you get to 100 percent, you are actually at a disadvantage," Coulter said. "The redistricting plan will get both schools to about 80 percent."
The Snow Hill addition will add 12 classrooms, a music room, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) lab and a multipurpose lab; boosting the school's capacity from 604 to 844.
Snow Hill Principal Phil Iannarone said the expansion will allow the school to reclaim space and offer more opportunities for students, something parents whose children are being moved from Ooltewah are concerned about.
"Currently, we use all our space here," Iannarone said. "Our mantra is to love all kids and we try go provide as many opportunities as possible to students to show that love."
Some parents at Tuesday's meeting were concerned about moving their students to an older school building — Snow Hill was built in the 1980s — but Johnson pointed out that the average age of school buildings in the district is about 40 years old.
"We have to discuss what are our expectations for learning environments and how do we make sure all schools have great learning environments for students," Johnson said.
The proposed new district lines significantly increase Snow Hill's zone but attempt to keep feeder patterns intact. Most students who attend both schools currently attend Hunter Middle School. Ooltewah Elementary students eventually matriculate to Ooltewah High and Snow Hill students to Central High.
Students in grades K-4 who currently attend Ooltewah will have the opportunity to stay at the school until they move on to middle school through a "grandfathering" provision. Transportation will not be provided for those students though, and parents will have to elect to stay by March 11.
Younger siblings not currently in school will also not have the opportunity to attend Ooltewah, even if their older sibling stays, though.
The draft zones will be up for discussion at the school board's work session on Feb. 18 and will most likely be up for vote by the board at it's Feb. 21 monthly meeting. The district invites community feedback from families and community members and is holding a second community input meeting on Feb. 12.
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.