Kingsport parents cite concerns with school rezoning proposal

Rick Wagner • Aug 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Susan Lodal with the Kingsport BOE, left, talks with JoElla Helton about school redistricting. Ned Jilton II photo.


KINGSPORT — Shelly Herzog has a seemingly simple request of city school officials: Allow her two sons to finish elementary school at the same place they started it.

It’s a plea shared by others from the Cooks Valley section of the city. They want their children to remain at Jefferson Elementary instead of being rezoned to Johnson Elementary.

However, if the Kingsport Board of Education adopts a proposed rezoning plan, her children would be among 250 city elementary and middle school students assigned to a different school come next fall.

BOE member Pat Turner explained that students entering the fifth or eighth grades in the fall of 2009 will be allowed to stay in the same school even if they otherwise would be rezoned.

Herzog said she and her husband, retired from the Navy, moved to Tennessee and Kingsport from South Carolina for quality public schools. She’s involved in the PTA at Jefferson and believes her sons need to continue school there in familiar surroundings with familiar classmates, teachers and administrators, although a Kingsport City Schools information sheet tells parents that some other students, teachers and school personnel will make the same moves as their rezoned children.

Herzog was among about 20 parents who attended one of two informal sessions Tuesday to get information and give feedback about proposed rezoning for Kingsport schools that could be approved by the BOE as early as Thursday night.

The rezoning is a response to the scheduled fall 2009 opening of Adams Elementary School in an annexed housing development near Rock Springs, and it is designed to help the schools better match their populations with their capacities.

“I definitely plan on going with the (out-of-zone) request,” Herzog said Tuesday morning at the Midland Center with Jefferson Elementary School kindergarten student Ryan, 5, at her side. Her other son, 6-year-old Devin, is in first grade this year. “It sounds like there’s a good chance if I apply, I’ll get it.”

BOE President Susan Lodal and member Wally Boyd said that would not necessarily be the case, especially if a flood of requests come from Cooks Valley parents.

“Technically, there should be free space in all the schools,” said Tyler Fleming, director of student services. “We accommodate about 700 (out-of-zone students) a year at this point in time.”

Fleming predicted that number would go up with the new rezoning plan.

Cooks Valley residents Jo Ella Helton and Brian McCloud attended the evening session and said they, too, want their children to remain at Jefferson instead of being shifted to Johnson.

“I would love to see them grandfather these two sections in,” Helton said of 119 Cooks Valley students shifting from Jefferson to Johnson and another neighborhood — 76 students from Memorial Boulevard, John B. Dennis Highway and Fort Henry Drive — going from Johnson to Jefferson.

She has a son in the first grade and daughter in the third grade this fall, while McCloud has daughters in the first and fourth grades.

“I doubt that we would have one child in one school and one child in another,” McCloud said, although his oldest would be guaranteed placement at Jefferson for fifth grade.

Some students at Jefferson, Johnson, Jackson and Roosevelt elementaries would be affected by the rezonings. The only middle school students affected would be Malibar Heights residents to be switched from Jefferson Elementary/Robinson Middle to Jackson Elementary/Sevier Middle.

Unless the school board makes other provisions, parents who have multiple rezoned children in the same school — as well as any other parents with children subject to the rezoning — in January can apply for out-of-zone placement with no guarantees.

Director of Schools Richard Kitzmiller said that unless the board decides otherwise, parents would be responsible for transporting out-of-zone students — including fifth- and eighth-graders — to and from school rather than relying on the school bus system.

The Board of Education may vote on the rezonings at its meeting Thursday.

“I expect Johnson, Jefferson and Adams to continue to be the fastest-growing schools,” said Kitzmiller.

Three city elementary schools — Kennedy, Washington and Lincoln — are not affected, and neither is the lone high school, Dobyns-Bennett.

Parents still may e-mail comments to zoninginput@k12k.com. For more information on the rezoning proposal, including a map, go to www.k12k.com.

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