The fate of the class of 2007 seemed sealed Thursday night, but remains in limbo at press time.

A 5-4 vote of the Cumberland County Board of Education determined the senior class would be kept together next year at Cumberland County High School. However, on Friday, notice was issued of a special called meeting for Monday night to reconsider the issue.

CCHS Principal Janet Graham said Thursday, "We spent a lot of time looking at the various options. We put a pencil to the many pros and cons to each of these. We tried to find the best option that we could provide as much choice as we could to keep equity in the schools. We felt option 2 did what the board and administrative teams had suggested in giving the seniors an option."

Four options were presented to the board:

•Hard zoning for seniors zoned to CCHS and SMHS. This option provided no senior choice.

•Give seniors zoned for SMHS a choice which school they would attend. Shuttle buses would transport seniors needing transportation from SMHS to CCHS.

•Give all seniors a choice which school they would attend. No shuttle buses would be available. Seniors attending out of zone would be responsible for their own transportation.

•All seniors stay at CCHS. This option provided no senior choice and provided shuttle buses from SMHS to CCHS.

Director of Schools Patricia Ragsdale, Graham, SMHS Principal Roger Eichelberger and Transportation Supervisor Lane McAnally recommended option 2. Members of next year's senior class that would be zoned for SMHS were surveyed to determine their preference. Eighty seniors zoned for SMHS said they would choose to attend the new school, while 105 would choose to stay at CCHS. Forty-three were unsure which school they would choose to attend.

SMHS principal Roger Eichelberger said, "We talked to the juniors zoned for Stone many, many times. They've been offered the option; approximately 80 of them have chosen the option to go."

Eichelberger said there were 2,100 students at CCHS that day, and 146 staff members going up and down the hallways.

"That's a lot of people," Eichelberger said. "I feel like we've offered this option to the seniors and I think we should follow through with it."

During the public forum prior to the regular monthly meeting, a number of rising seniors and their parents spoke in favor of keeping the class together for their senior year, but several parents and students pointed out the advantages of allowing a senior class at the new high school.

Amber Neal, a rising senior, said, "I am zoned for Stone, but I agree with option 4. I moved here the summer before my freshman year and I didn't know anyone. I was terrified. I fell in love with it. I love our unity as a school and as a class. It is one of the best classes that has ever been in CCHS. I want to remain with them and some of us would be separated. I would appreciate it if you gave us the opportunity to have our prom and graduation together and let us finish what we started."

LeAnn Sherrill, head sponsor for the class of 2007 at CCHS, said, "I love the class as a whole, and I have been torn with this issue, but I do feel Stone Memorial High School should have a senior class of some kind, whether it's option 1, option 2, or option 3. Yes, they have been together, but they also deserve the choice. I don't think it would be fair to say you must stay together."

Jigna Patel, a rising senior zoned for SMHS, said, "I know a lot of students want to stay together as a school, but I personally want to go to Stone Memorial High School as a senior . . . Going to Stone Memorial will higher my ranking. And having two schools and two sets of scholarships will help so many kids that are competing for them. Also, a lot of senior classes that I have, such as honors English, I know a lot of my friends haven't been given an opportunity to take that class because it's overcrowded. Being able to go to SMHS, we would have better size classes and it would be such a good opportunity. We just want a choice not all be forced to go somewhere we don't want to go."

Some parents were concerned with upper level classes being available for students if there were only 80 senior students at SMHS. Also, some were concerned about the fairness of having two sets of graduating seniors and the equity between salutatorian and valadictorian with one class being so much smaller than the other. If only 80 seniors attend SMHS, CCHS will have a graduating class of about 330 students.

As the BOE began to discuss the options, Rob Safdie, 2nd District representative, questioned the timing of running a shuttle from SMHS to CCHS for seniors that choose to attend CCHS.

Ragsdale said the schedule was not perfect and more work may have to be done to make it work. CCHS would start later than SMHS to give seniors a chance to get to school on time. It would delay buses of an afternoon, and would delay buses arriving at elementary schools.

"We're going to be disrupting all four or five feeder schools because of these 40 to 50 students," Safdie said. He suggested all seniors take a study hall during the afternoon and then they could be transported to SMHS before the end of the school day so buses would not be delayed at elementary schools. He said it could be a mobile study hall. Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, said he did not believe that would be an option because of academic plans.

Orville Hale, 8th District representative, noted most seniors drive to school, so shuttling may not be necessary. Ragsdale said they wanted to ensure transportation was available to any senior who needed it.

Hale also questioned the safety of the roads in the area of SMHS. There is a car entrance off Genesis Road and plans are being worked on to make Genesis Road a three-lane road in the area of the school and to widen Cook Rd. to three lanes to just past the Roane State campus. There are also plans to provide more signalization in the area. However, it was noted this work would not be started until July 2007 at the earliest, and would not be completed until 2009.

Hale said, "So it's safe to say the traffic situation is going to get worse before it gets better?"

Several board members were concerned with the safety issue of road construction and inadequate roads at the school at this point. There will be a traffic officer at the entrances, and a right-turn lane will be built on Genesis Rd. before the school opens.

Ragsdale said, "Seniors will be at SMHS before construction is completed. It's just delaying the inevitable."

Hale said, "Based on the numbers I wrote down during the work session, considering the traffic situation, I'm concerned that if we add 80 seniors I have two concerns with that. First, though I would like to give a choice if we could, if we allow 80 more people that are most likely going to be driving that we'll create a traffic problem. The other concern is for the graduating children being able to make the classes they need based on their four-year plan. I think decimating the class is not a good idea."

Hale moved to approve option 4, keeping the seniors at CCHS for the 2006-'07 school year. Schlafer supported the motion and discussion continued.

Safdie questioned if a full array of classes would be available for the seniors attending SMHS. Ragsdale noted English was the only true senior class, and the other upper-level courses also included juniors so it was likely a full array of classes would be available.

PTO/A representative Cathy Camera said, "I had to go to a brand new high school as a senior. It was a good experience. I understand the people that want to keep the class together, but it doesn't sound very compelling if you're one of the ones that doesn't want to. The only situation I would deny choice to students is if the school could not provide the parity of classes. If that could be resolved, I would say give them the choice."

Question was called and the motion was approved with Hale; Schlafer; Davis; Shirey Parris, 3rd District representative; and Joyce Udell, 1st District representative, voting in favor. Voting no were Mary Smith, 7th District representative; Safdie; Tom Netherton, 6th District representative; and Allen Foster, 4th District representative.

The special called meeting to reconsider the motion was set for 6 p.m. at the Central Office on Fourth St.

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