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School rezoning: No boundary changes made, but district offers to ‘grandfather’ students in current zones

CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – The Clarksville-Montgomery County School Board was presented a formal rezoning recommendation this week, and with the same rezoning boundaries that were in the original proposal.

But at Tuesday’s meeting, the board did opt for an extensive “grandfather” clause that allows rising 7th and 8th graders, as well as rising sophomores, juniors and seniors, to remain at the school they currently attend – that is, as long as the Students have their own transportation to and from school.

The school option proposal presented to the CMCSS School Board on Feb. 8 2022. (Keely Quinlan)

grandfather clause

With CMCSS undergoing an extensive rezoning for the opening of Kirkwood Middle School this fall, there have been several concerns raised by affected families. The district’s answer was the grandfathering plan.

Once the middle schoolers reach high school, they would still have to attend the high school they are zoned for. Additionally, any middle school selection made for the 2022-23 school year cannot be changed the following year.

The same will be true for the high school choices once Kirkwood High opens in fall 2023.

Proposed zoning for CMCSS middle and high schools.

Capacity issues as priority

During his presentation to the School Board Tuesday evening, CEO of RSP & Associates Robert Schwarz said their main priority was addressing the capacity issues while also rezoning as few students as possible, considering socioeconomics of the student population, and planning for future growth.

Schwarz noted that with this rezoning, middle school capacity won’t become an issue again until the 2025-26 school year.

“What I always bring to everyone’s attention is when we look at the available … brick and mortar, we have with the Kirkwood campus coming online 9,468 seats that we can serve, and you can see in 2025-26, we exceed that,” Schwarz said. “We’re going to have 9,489, so we don’t have enough brick and mortar capacity with whatever we try to do with the changes.”

Even though the Kirkwood campus will not be the end of the district’s problems with capacity, the opening of the middle and high schools will alleviate overcrowding for at least the next few years.

Schwarz acknowledged the plan wasn’t perfect but said it seemed to address all of the district’s criteria.

Public concerns

Over the last two months, three public comment sessions were held, with several overlapping concerns voiced by parents.

The biggest concern was transportation and the already overstrained operations due to a bus driver shortage that has created severe delays. Another transportation issue was concern for students traveling on Interstate 24, both on buses and high school students who are able to drive themselves.

Some families objected that students would have to travel farther than they do currently. During the feedback sessions, some said their student would be traveling directly past their old school to get to their newly zoned school.

Norm Brumblay, chief operations officer for the district, told the board the district has a cursory bus plan in place for the rezoning recommendation, and it’s available to view on the website.

Board member Charlie Patterson asked if the grandfather clause could reduce the strain on bus services, with more families staying at their current school and providing their own transportation.

“Depending on how many parents take the option, that’s correct,” Brumblay said.

Some parents said they felt their input wouldn’t matter. “It sounds like things are already set in stone,” one parent said during one of the virtual sessions.

“I know you have to have a great amount of trust with the process and especially with someone who doesn’t live in your community. I can tell you with all the processes we’ve run … things change, and they do change by the comments you provide,” Schwarz said during the Jan. 18 informal hearing.

The School Board is expected to vote on rezoning at the Feb. 22 meeting.

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