Steeplechase not affected by rezoning

Rick Wagner • Feb 14, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Residents of the Steeplechase subdivision just west of Interstate 26 came out in force Thursday night to address the Sullivan County School Board.

About 25 strong among a standing-room-only crowd, they were prepared to argue why their children should not be rezoned from Colonial Heights Middle School to Sullivan Middle School.

They left after a sigh of relief, however, following assurances from school officials their subdivision would remain zoned to Miller Perry Elementary and Colonial Heights Middle inside the Sullivan South High School zone.

It was all a misunderstanding among the emotion and confusion of proposals that would close three Sullivan County elementary schools and rezone students in all county high school zones.

Deborah DeBraal was speaking during public comment at the BOE meeting when Chairman Ron Smith of Blountville assured her that Steeplechase was not part of the rezoning.

“We have your word that Steeplechase is good to go for Colonial Heights Middle School?” DeBraal asked.

School officials said yes.

“I think you’ve made our day today,” DeBraal said.

Director of Schools Jack Barnes said the confusion came over the general description of where the new line between the two school zones would be drawn, with most areas west of Interstate 26 being sent back to Sullivan Middle, where much of that area had been before a rezoning about a decade ago.

The switch of more than 120 students would do away with the need for modular units at Colonial Heights and mean additional students for the under-utilized Sullivan Middle.

Barnes said Steeplechase was left out of the South zone change because moving it would complicate transportation issues.

DeBraal said her child catches a bus for Colonial Heights about 6:30 a.m., and Sullivan Middle is just more than 10 miles from her home, compared to Colonial Heights being just more than five miles.

However, two parents whose children would be directly affected, Mark Hagy and Mike Ervin of the Peppertree subdivision, urged the board not to rezone their area.

Both said their children and others could end up going from the sixth grade at Colonial Heights Middle this year to seventh grade at Sullivan Middle next year and then, after annexation by Kingsport, go to Robinson Middle for eighth grade and then Dobyns-Bennett for ninth grade.

However, under a BOE policy approved in 2006, annexed students can choose whether to continue in the county system or switch to the city system.

Of the more than 120 students targeted to be moved in the rezoning from Colonial Heights to Sullivan, Barnes said some are in a recently announced annexation proposal for the city.

Other active proposals on the table would close Cedar Grove Elementary in Bloomingdale, Akard Elementary just west of Bristol, and Valley Pike Elementary in eastern Sullivan County.

A proposal to move Mary Hughes Elementary and Middle School middle-schoolers to two other schools — splitting them between the East and Central High zones — is a moot point since the board Thursday night approved a plan to remove all modular units at Mary Hughes.

Sullivan South zone parents will have the chance to address the board and administration on the proposed changes during a meeting Thursday, Feb. 26, at Sullivan Middle.

Other such meetings across the county are scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 17, at North High School; Thursday, Feb. 19, at Blountville Middle School; and Wednesday, Feb. 25, at Holston Valley Middle School.

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