Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

August 2, 2012

PV construction causes overcrowding

CROSSVILLE — Construction of a classroom addition at Pine View Elementary School has the school getting creative on where it will hold classes next year. That need for space also led to the discovery several students were attending the Cumberland County school though they are actually residents of neighboring Roane or Morgan counties. The school informed the parents of those students they could not attend Pine View in the coming school year.

"There were several out-of-county students attending Pine View we weren't aware of," Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle told the Cumberland County Board of Education Thursday.

The $1.3 million construction project will demolish the existing old gymnasium and office area currently used as classroom space with dividers set up between classes. The one-story addition will include five classrooms with dedicated space for teen living and music classes, additional restroom facilities, staff workroom, guidance office, resource classroom and a multi-purpose room. It is hoped the new portion will be ready to use when school starts in the fall of 2013.

In the meantime, plans have been made to absorb those classrooms into the main portion of the school. The library will move to the cafeteria and the library space will become a classroom. Offices in the new gymnasium will be used for classes as well as lobby areas. Special areas, career and technical education courses will be taught off a cart and at least two classes will double up in one classroom space.

"We're trying to do the best that we can," VanWinkle said. "We're causing a very overcrowded situation trying to move everybody in and make space. In some of those situations, it will help. We have to make sure we're providing services to Cumberland County students and it's fair for them."

Twelve students were found to be attending the school though they lived in a neighboring county without the proper paperwork. VanWinkle said Principal Pat Allen discovered the students were not Cumberland County residents part way through the last school year. In that area of the county, many of the Cumberland County residents have Rockwood addresses though they live inside the county. Many of the parents of those students have requested their children be allowed to continue attending the school and one appeared before the board Thursday to make that request of the board.

The child is entering the second grade this year and has attended Pine View for two years. The father travels extensively for his work and the mother commutes two hours each way to her job, so the family depends heavily on grandparents and other family members to help with their son. Those family members live in Cumberland County and the family is prepared to grant the grandparents an educational power of attorney.

"The need for care from them is paramount. We depend almost daily on them to provide care needed for our son," James Nelson told the board.

Nelson and his wife have placed their home in Roane County up for sale and plan to return to their previous Cumberland County residence once that home sells.

"We'd like to keep our child in an established learning environment," he said.

Cumberland County does have a policy regarding attendance of non-resident students, policy 6.204. Parents or guardians must submit requests for attendance in writing for approval by the board upon the recommendation of the director of schools. The application must be made at least two weeks prior to the first day of school. Transfers at other times require joint agreement between the two boards of education. When accepted at a specific school, future enrollment will be reviewed annually to determine if continued enrollment will result in overcrowding, and parents must apply on an annual basis. Subsequent years' enrollment may be terminated if it adversely impacts the school population or class structure.

The county has agreements with Putnam County and Rhea County for attendance of out-of-county students. VanWinkle said she has not signed agreements for any Cumberland County student to attend school in another county.

In addition, the policy states parents must pay a tuition to the school system equal to the previous year's per pupil expenditure, minus any funds received from the state or student's resident school system. Last year, the Cumberland County per pupil expenditure was $7,736, with 29.4 percent coming from local funding. However, the school system has not charged any out-of-county students tuition.

VanWinkle said, "That leaves it to ones that can afford to pay that and those who can't. Money is not the issue. It's never been the issue. It's the space. I would never turn a child away because of the money. But we've got to have the space and got to have the resources."

Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, noted the policy required school board action and that time was running out to comply with that policy with the start of school set for Aug. 8. He added the Nelson family had requested to attend Pine View in May and had not yet received an answer.

"They need an answer, not a maybe," Janeway said.

David Bowman, 7th District representative, said, "They're already in the school system. They are moving back to Cumberland County. It's counterproductive to take that child and make him go to Roane or Morgan county and then move him right back."

It was noted that move was contingent on the sale of the family's home, which could not be predicted.

VanWinkle said the school needed an additional teacher last year to accommodate an overcrowded class.

"Honestly, it's going to be tough because we have more than one request and many of them have the same hardship," VanWinkle said, adding the family does have ties to the school system and that any decision would be closely scrutinized by the community for fairness to all students.

Gordon Davis, 5th District representative, said, "If you send one back, you're going to have to send them all back. You can't pick or choose."

Charles Tollett, 1st District representative, asked if the power of attorney would make a difference in this case. Board attorney Earl Patton said those situations were decided on a case-by-case basis but that a power of attorney did not necessarily change the child's residence.

Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, said, "We've allowed this for so many years. We're punishing the child for our mistake. I say let them come back, but no more can come unless they prove they live in this county. This is a hardship that we created."

VanWinkle said she would meet with the parents involved on Monday and explain the paperwork that will need to be completed by the Roane County or Morgan County school system.

"If the other county approves, they will be able to come to Pine View," VanWinkle said.

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