By William C. Singleton III
Hoover City Schools Superintendent Andy Craig recently gave a standing-room-only crowd a glimpse of a proposed rezoning plan that impacts children – and their families – in most of the system’s elementary schools. Though Craig said that the plan is still being developed, he told more than 100 people attending the Aug. 4 school board meeting that the Hoover school system needs to redraw attendance zones to handle a growing student population and to better use space in existing schools.
In a meeting that was closed to the media and the general public on Aug. 11 at Bluff Park Elementary School, Craig said the new plan is more about planning for future growth than a reaction to overcrowded schools. At the Aug. 4 meeting, Craig said the rezoning plan would impact the 2015-16 school year and would need U.S. Justice Department approval.
According to the proposed plan:
Students in Lake Crest would go from Gwin Elementary/Simmons Middle to Trace Crossings Elementary/Brock’s Gap Intermediate/Bumpus Middle
Students in Lake Cyrus would go from Deer Valley Elementary to South Shades Crest Elementary
Students in the Carisbrooke subdivision would go from Bluff Park Elementary to Gwin Elementary
Students living in multi-dwelling units at Riverchase Gardens, The Gables Condominiums, Royal Oaks, Summerchase of Riverchase, Colonial Grand at Riverchase Trails and Sterling Oaks of Riverchase would go from Riverchase Elementary to Greystone Elementary.
Students in Wood Gardens and Wildwood multi-dwelling units would go from Rocky Ridge Elementary to Riverchase Elementary
Students who live along South Shades Crest Road would go from South Shades Crest Elementary to Trace Crossings Elementary
Students in the Woodlands and Grand Oaks areas would go from South Shades Crest to Trace Crossings Elementary
Students in Ridge Crossing multi-dwelling units would go from Deer Valley Elementary to Trace Crossings Elementary
Students in Riverchase Landing multi-dwelling units would go from Trace Crossings Elementary to Deer Valley Elementary
Craig said he hopes to present a preliminary rezoning plan to the board in September and expects a period of public comment before the final plan is approved.
The school board’s next scheduled meeting is Sept. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the school system’s central office.
Craig has been meeting with groups of parents to get feedback as the school system develops the rezoning plan. Craig noted that the last rezoning the school conducted was in 2010 when it moved residents on the western part of Russet Woods back into the South Shades Crest Elementary school zone. “This one is a little more comprehensive and impacts directly eight of our 10 elementary schools,” Craig said.
The superintendent said school officials have been examining growth patterns and trying to determine how to accommodate the influx of potential students. The most significant residential construction will occur in Ross Bridge over the next five years, Craig said. Ross Bridge feeds into Deer Valley Elementary, which will soon be at capacity, he added. Deer Valley, South Shades Crest and Trace Crossings elementary schools all feed into Brock’s Gap Intermediate and Bumpus Middle. Trace Crossings Elementary has space to accommodate more students, Craig said.
“We’ve got a school within that feeder pattern that’s probably less than half full,” he said. “It’s our largest footprint for an elementary
Bluff Park Elementary is full to capacity and Craig said he’d like to restore some programs at the school that had to be slashed to accommodate more students. ”
(Principal David) Fancher had to give up his computer lab because he was out of classroom space,”Craig told parents. “We’d like to get our extended day program back into the Bluff Park building.”
While not a part of the proposed rezoning plan, Craig said he also envisions, at a future point, two middle schools flowing into Hoover High and two into Spain Park. Currently, Simmons and Bumpus middle schools feed into Hoover High and Berry Middle feeds into Spain Park High.
Craig said he foresees making Brock’s Gap Intermediate (now a fifth- and sixth-grade school) a middle school and having it and Bumpus feed Hoover High and Simmons and
Berry feed Spain Park High.
Hoover High has about 2,800 students and will likely reach 3,000 in about three to six years, Craig said.
“That’s not a part of this proposal, but it is a part of a master vision we’ve got to begin to consider,” he said.
But many parents crowded the board room in the school system’s central office to voice their concerns about the rezoning. Some parents protested the idea of
sending their children to schools further away than the school closest to their neighborhoods. Some said they moved into a specific neighborhood so their children could attend a particular school. Others complained about the dangers of student drivers traveling Interstate 459 to attend Spain Park High and said traffic on area
streets, such as South Shades Crest Road, are already congested with school traffic.
Several parents submitted petitions from their neighborhood opposing any rezoning.
Bluff Park resident Dan Redding said the school system should build an elementary school in Ross Bridge rather than reshuffling parents from their current schools.
“If that’s the problem area, why affect nine other elementary schools,” he asked.
Redding also suggested the school system move children from Ross Bridge to the underutilized Trace Crossings Elementary than moving others to different schools.
Craig said the system would consider that suggestion, but it would be more difficult to move those students that distance.
Bluff Park resident Shea Polk said the system needs to address the educational disparity among schools. She said based on test scores, it appears Bluff Park
elementary students would be moving from a high-performing school to a lower-performing school in Trace Crossing Elementary. “If we were being move from a higher-performing elementary school to a higher-performing elementary school, people wouldn’t be so passionate about it (the rezoning),” she said.
Peyton Newsome, the PTO president at Trace Crossings Elementary, defended the school saying the school has made great improvements in rebounding from low test scores in previous years. She encouraged parents to give Trace Crossings and its faculty a chance to continue making education better at the school.
Mandy Solomon urged parents to voice their concerns to Hoover’s elected officials, who have slashed sales tax revenue to the school system yet continue to approve more subdivisions with more homes and more children being added to the rolls of the school system.
“If they want to keep adding subdivisions, then our city council needs to fork out more money to help our school system, because right now, they’re leaving the school system out to dry,” she said.
For more information on the realignment summary, visit www.hoovercityschools.net.