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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ Buses arrive for the first day of classes at East Ridge High and Middle Schools. The first day for Hamilton County Schools saw changed starting times for some schools on August 7, 2019.

Students who live in attendance zones for nearly a dozen Hamilton County schools could see changes in their assigned school for the 2020-21 school year.

Hamilton County Schools released proposed redistricting plans Friday and will hold three zoning meetings. The district was set to rezone students because of the opening of the new East Hamilton Middle School and Harrison Elementary, as well as to relieve overcrowding at Clifton Hills Elementary, officials said.

Among the changes are rezoning some students in neighborhoods surrounding St. Elmo from Calvin Donaldson to Lookout Mountain Elementary and replacing them with students from Clifton Hills Elementary. And students at Hillcrest Elementary, which will close at the end of this school year, will be sent to the new Harrison Elementary School.

With more space between both East Hamilton High and the new middle school, students will be pulled from East Ridge High and Ooltewah High to attend East Hamilton High, and from East Ridge and Ooltewah Middle to attend East Hamilton Middle.

UPCOMING ZONING MEETINGS

— Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. at Ooltewah Middle School, 5100 Ooltewah Ringgold Road

— Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. at The Bethlehem Center, 200 W 38th Street

— Thursday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Washington Hills YFD Center, 4628 Oakwood Drive

Superintendent Bryan Johnson said he anticipates that developing zone lines for the two new schools will be easier than the redistricting of elementary students downtown who attend Clifton Hills and neighboring schools.

"East Hamilton and Harrison are a little bit easier just because they are new, and you have to draw zone lines for them," he said. "But it is a larger rezone for this community since we have multiple schools that are engaged and involved."

Hamilton County is seeing significant growth in Districts 4, 7 and 9 — downtown, East Hamilton and Ooltewah/Harrison — which has also been taken into account in the preliminary facilities report presented by MGT Consulting Group last summer.

The MGT report did not touch much on East Hamilton or Harrison, Johnson said, but the first set of preliminary recommendations advised tearing down Clifton Hills Elementary and rezoning its students to neighboring schools such as Calvin Donaldson and/or building a new 1,000-student elementary school in the area. The current Clifton Hills site is located in a flood plain, so MGT doesn't recommend rebuilding on the site.

Enrollment at the school has grown significantly in the past five years, Johnson said, with the district adding at least five portable buildings in the same time frame. Last year, MGT identified that Clifton Hill was at 122% utilization and it only scored a 71 out of 100, or fair, on its physical facilities assessment.

MGT also recommended closing Lookout Mountain Elementary and moving its students into a K-12 school building located on the existing Lookout Valley Middle/High School site. The school scored a 68 out of 100, or poor, on MGT's facility assessment and is only at about 52% utilization, according to the report.

Johnson told the Times Free Press that the initial redistricting of schools in downtown Chattanooga is just "a Band-Aid."

"It is urgent that we address what is going on in Clifton Hills around overcrowding and — and what is best for students," he said. "There will probably have to be construction sooner rather than later."

District officials will share these proposed zone lines at three community meetings in the coming weeks and plan to collect feedback from parents and families through a survey. The Hamilton County school board is slated to review finalized recommendations and vote on the changes at its March 19 board meeting.

Emails went out to parents at many of the potentially affected schools Friday, inviting them to complete the survey and attend one of the zoning meetings.

"Due to overcrowding at Clifton Hills Elementary, the district is considering adjusting school district attendance lines to create a more comfortable school environment for children and staff. Redistricting may have an impact on Lookout Mountain Elementary and Calvin Donaldson Academy. We recognize redistricting and change can affect families, so your viewpoint is extremely important to us as we work through the process," read an email sent out to families of students who attend Lookout Mountain Elementary.

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

MORE INFO

For more information and to take the Hamilton County Schools 2020-21 Proposed Redistricting survey, visit: www.hcde.org/redistricting.

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Graham Harrell hooks up a pressure washer at Clifton Hills Elementary School on Saturday, July 27, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Volunteers were on hand to help prepare the school for the new year as part of a county-wide community volunteer program at almost 30 area schools. / Staff file photo

 

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