Second in a series
KINGSPORT - How to address annexed students is the question at hand for the six candidates vying for seats during next month's city election.
On May 15, Model City voters will go to the polls to elect three people to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Their choices include two incumbents - Vice Mayor Larry Munsey and Aldermen Ken Marsh, and four challengers - Ray Cain, Bill Hillman, Richard Samples and Jantry Shupe.
The Times-News recently asked the candidates a series of questions addressing issues facing the Model City, including annexation, education and the proposed higher education center in downtown Kingsport.
This story is part two of the series and will highlight the answers to the following question.
Q: If Kingsport is to annex property and homes in the Rock Springs and Sullivan Gardens communities, how should Kingsport address annexed students: by new school construction, by purchasing county schools or by some other means? Annexed students can now elect to remain in county schools or choose to attend city schools. What are your thoughts on this policy?
Hillman: Kingsport needs to look at and study all options carefully. Whatever is done must be cost effective and benefit everyone involved. If they are annexed, they are in reality city school students. A uniform standard should apply to everyone, not just for one area.
Marsh: Construction of the 500-student capacity Rock Springs elementary school provides space for a significant increase in educational capacity. This should provide significant growth space for the next several years. The county school board policy change last year which allows students annexed in areas to continue, at their choice, in the school they already attend gives families freedom to decide what is best for their situation.
Cooperation between the city and county governments is excellent. As opportunities to build, share or swap school facilities arise, I am confident these boards will work for the common good.
Munsey: One of the reasons annexation is such a serious concern on the part of parents, and rightfully so, is the impact on students. Although we are addressing that, in part, by building a new elementary school in Rock Springs, new schools are not the only solution by any means. With all the schools in the county system and with space available in many of them, I think close cooperation between the city and the county is the only solution to this problem.
Annexed students can now elect to remain in county schools or choose to attend city schools. While work needs to continue on this matter, the one thing that we can never forget is this: Our goal must be to do everything possible to keep from disrupting the educational process of the student.
Samples: Students who are annexed should stay in the school they were in. All it would take is for the County Commission and Board of Education and the City BMA and BOE to work together and this would not be a problem.
If we annex a part of Sullivan Gardens, why should the taxpayers have to build another school a half-mile from two existing schools just to move those annexed students into a city school? The same holds true for Rock Springs. We can't afford to build new schools when the ones we have now are not being used to their full capacity.
Shupe: The building of a new elementary school opens the opportunity for annexed students to expand within the city system and students continue having the option to remain in the county system. This would indicate that no decision alienating a student from their current environment should be made quickly without intense thought and conversation between the city and county.
Again (strategically planned) annexation is good for the growth of Kingsport, but with growth are growing pains, which must be addressed in a diplomatic manner with regional partners (Sullivan County).
Cain: We should first sit down with the leaders of Sullivan County and see if it would be possible to work out a purchase agreement that the city and county would both find beneficial. If that is not an option, then we have to be prepared to build. The neighborhood or community school is very important in every child's life. There are friendships and bonds that last a lifetime in every child's life, and letting each student and family choose is the right policy.