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Cleveland City (Tennessee) Schools presented two drafts of new school zones at a community meeting Thursday night, Jan. 24, 2019.

Cleveland City (Tennessee) Schools presented two drafts of new school zones at a community meeting Thursday night, ahead of a Board of Education vote next month that will cement new attendance zone lines for the district's elementary schools.

Since November, district leaders have been engaged in collecting community input, analyzing student data and Cleveland property lines as it prepares to open Candy's Creek Cherokee Elementary School in August.

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Cleveland City Schools Option A

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The launch of a new building allows the district to "right-size" its elementary schools, said Director of School Russell Dyer. "We are trying to reclaim our pace. We want adequate spaces in our elementary schools and to get back to the capacity that our schools are built for."

Currently, the district has more than 2,450 students spread across six elementary schools, but the seventh is being built to house at least 520 students.

The district does not plan to fill the school right away, though, Dyer said, as it anticipates further growth in the area.

Some of the current schools, such as Mayfield Elementary, are significantly out of space. At Mayfield, Dyer said, music class meets in the school theater because the music classroom is being used as a regular classroom space.

Currently, about 520 students attend Mayfield, but under either of the two proposals, student enrollment would be reduced to below 400.

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Cleveland City Schools Option B

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The district has been using GuideK12, analytics software that allows districts to enter property and utility information and use data to create potential zones or analyze how a change could affect a school or neighborhood.

"We are trying to take a very systematic approach to how we do this," Dyer said. "We are trying to take the feelings out of it and make it very data-driven and systematic."

Dyer emphasized the district's commitment to ensuring that the rezoning will allow elementary schools to operate at a desirable capacity as well as ensure there are equitable opportunities and resources for students at every school.

"We do want to make sure our schools are as equitable as possible, but also focus in from a neighborhood standpoint," he said.

The biggest concerns have come from parents whose children will move schools under the proposed new zones.

"I spent a whole year teaching my 4-year-old the way back and forth to school, and that's going to be a big process if that changes; that kind of makes me nervous, because next year he'll be going to a different school, different classes, different teachers," said Promise Johnfauno, who attended with her husband. "The No. 1 issue for us is in both cases we have to change schools."

Johnfauno emphasized that she does not want her son to have to change schools.

"I just want him to go to one school and not have to move around," she said.

Community members are also concerned about younger siblings of rising fifth-grade students who the district has already said will be able to stay at their current school.

Parents will be able to apply to stay at a current elementary school, but the district is advertising a firm March 22 deadline to make such a decision. About 160 students in fourth grade will be affected by a zoning change and will be able to opt to stay at their current school, however transportation will not be provided for those students.

The district also allows "cross zoning," or opening enrollment at schools that have the capacity, as well as allowing kids from outside the district to attend and pay tuition.

Any changes made to how those students are handled will have to be decided by the board after it adopts a new zoning proposal. The board meets at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, and should vote during its Feb. 28 meeting, Dyer said.

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

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