Rezoning Would Shift More Students To Low Enrollment Dalewood Middle, Brainerd High

  • Tuesday, January 31, 2023
  • Hannah Campbell

Hamilton County Schools wants feedback about a proposed rezoning plan for high schools and middle schools in Brainerd and East Ridge, which would take effect in fall 2023.

Feedback will be accepted through Feb. 6 and officials will present the formal recommendation at the regular meeting of the school board Feb. 16.

“We want to know exactly what you guys think,” said project manager Ben Coulter.

A district study showed that East Ridge Middle and East Ridge High Schools are over capacity, while Dalewood Middle School and Brainerd High School are under capacity.

“I don’t have a library anymore,” said East Ridge Middle School principal Christy Drake. The ERMS library and cafeteria are classrooms right now, she said.

In the new plan, families north of I-24 to Brainerd Road now zoned for East Ridge Middle and High Schools would be zoned for Dalewood Middle and Brainerd High.

Families south of the river along Amnicola Highway now zoned for Hixson High School would be zoned for Brainerd High.

Mr. Coulter said the rezoning would put students on a unified path through Hardy Elementary School, Dalewood and Brainerd High, whereas current Dalewood classes now split between BHS and HHS.

“I’ve been fighting a good fight,” said District 5 school board member Karitsa Jones. “We are fighting the fight to keep Brainerd High School open,” she said. “We’re trying to keep it open by expanding it.”

Ms. Jones said Brainerd High would close for “behavior” before it would close for low enrollment. She went so far as to ask families zoned for Brainerd High to stay at Brainerd High and resist the choice given to some to attend another county school.

“We got to believe in our school,” she said.

If the plan is approved by the school board, affected families will be sent a letter Feb. 20. Current students may choose to stay at their school through graduation, but they won’t have bus service and their siblings must attend the new school.

“If they can attend the school you should have bus service for them,” said the Reverend Ann Pierre, who is the president of the Chattanooga branch of the NAACP. She also expressed concern that schools would lose their Title 1 funding if the population shifted.

Ms. Jones and Ms. Drake said this rezoning would not put any school at a disadvantage. They both said student families, administrators and teachers they have talked with are happy and hopeful with the rezoning.

Ms. Jones estimated that at least 80 percent of Hamilton County students qualify for Title 1. “They look all kind of race, creeds and colors,” she said.

“I don’t know what the narrative used to be, but it’s not the narrative anymore,” said Ms. Drake.

The rezoning is based on data from the Regional Planning Agency’s projected growth in housing and the district’s own school facilities assessment of January 2020, which laid out long-term facilities maintenance and capital improvements.

The School Choice application deadline has been extended through Feb. 7. Families impacted by the rezoning can apply for School Choice or request that students stay at their current school. They can make their final decision by the School Choice deadline in mid-March.

THE NUMBERS:

Brainerd High School

643 now enrolled.

1,085 capacity.

835 projected enrollment with new zones.

Dalewood Middle School

260 enrolled.

667 capacity.

387 projected enrollment with new zones.

East Ridge High School

1,015 now enrolled.

1,003 capacity.

867 projected enrollment with new zones.

East Ridge Middle School

715 now enrolled.

694 capacity.

592 projected enrollment with new zones.

Hixson High School

950 now enrolled.

1,167 capacity.

907 projected enrollment with new zones.

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