By Heather Mullinix
Cumberland County allows parents to transport their children to a school out of their residential zone, as long as it will not cause an overcrowding at the school. The Cumberland County Board of Education is questioning if that policy needs to make a distinction between space available without portable classrooms.
"How can we sit here and decide anything when they've got 206 students out of zone?" asked Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, about South Cumberland Elementary during a building and grounds work session discussion of proposed building projects.
South Cumberland Elementary has the highest number of students attending from out of zone, with 206 zoned for other schools. That number does not include the children of teachers working at the school. Of those 206 students, 92 students are zoned for Brown Elementary, nine for Crab Orchard, 32 for Homestead, 42 for Martin, 26 for Pleasant Hill and five for Stone Elementary.
Only 16 students zoned for South Cumberland attend other schools out of zone.
"How's that been allowed?" Brewer asked.
Director of Schools Aarona VanWinke said schools could take students from out of zone, provided it did not cause overcrowding. South Cumberland does utilize portable classrooms.
Brewer continued, "I hate for children not to go where they want to, but there's something wrong with 206 kids going to South."
Josh Stone, 4th District representative, said, "They've never been considered overcrowded because we've never prohibited the use of portables."
Gordon Davis, 5th District representative, said, "Oh yeah they did. A long time ago they said, 'We're going to eliminate the portables in schools.' That's been 15, 20 years ago. Never did."
At other schools, Brown Elementary has 11 students attending from out of zone, while 113 of students zoned for Brown attend other schools.
Crab Orchard Elementary has 15 out-of-zone students, with 48 students attending other schools.
Homestead Elementary has 47 out-of-zone students enrolled. There are 54 students zoned for Homestead attending other schools.
Martin Elementary has 19 students attending from out of zone, with 92 students attending other schools.
At North Cumberland, 47 students are attending from out of zone while 8 students zoned for the school are attending other schools.
Pine View Elementary has 7 out-of-zone students and 8 students zoned for the school attending another school.
There are three students attending Pleasant Hill that are out of zone, with 49 students zoned for Pleasant Hill attending other schools.
Stone Elementary has 57 students attending from out of zone. There are 24 students zoned for Stone that are attending other schools.
Cumberland County High School and Stone Memorial High School use hard zoning, requiring students to attend the school for which they are zoned. High schools are zoned by feeder schools, with Crab Orchard, Homestead, North Cumberland, Pine View and Stone elementary schools zoned for SMHS and Brown, Martin, Pleasant Hill and South Cumberland elementary schools zoned for CCHS. Students who attend a feeder school out of zone are still required to attend the high school for which they are zoned.
Brewer questioned if the board needed to take a look at its school zone boundaries and see if a change is needed.
Gordon Davis, 5th District representative, said, "You can't dabble here and there.
"Bottom line is, when you have a good school, parents want to bring their kids to that school. Or, a lot of them come back because their parents went there and they liked the environment," Davis continued.
Vivian Hutson, 6th District representative, asked board members to be thinking about the issue of school zoning and possible solutions.
"We need to decide if this policy applies just to the building or to the portables?" Hutson asked. "Our goal is to get rid of the portables. Do we want to build on to South for the out-of-zone students, or do we need to look at if they need to go back to the other schools?"
She said another work session will be planned to discuss out of zone students and how to best handle school assignment.