School leaders brief community at rezoning forum

By Ken Lay

Knox County Schools hosted a rezoning meeting Tuesday night at Gibbs Elementary School to discuss the impact of two new middle schools.

Gibbs Middle School and Hardin Valley Middle are scheduled to open in 2018 and last week’s meeting was held to get community input on possible zoning changes. It was the second of six scheduled meetings.

“We do not have a plan in place yet,” said Knox County Schools interim superintendent Buzz Thomas. “We’re trying to build the best school system in the south and we can’t be the best school system in the south if we don’t manage growth effectively.”

“We will draft a proposal in February after all of the community meetings and we want to have something to take to the board of education in May.” Thomas said.

A second round of rezoning meetings will be held in the spring after the board reviews the preliminary plan and before it votes on any changes.

“We’ll come back in the spring with a plan and present it to the community before the board makes a final decision,” Knox County Schools controller Russ Oaks said.

People in the Gibbs Community are ready to welcome the new middle school.

“We’re happy that a middle school is coming to Gibbs,” said James Spears, a 1991 Gibbs High School graduate. “I was one of those who came here when Gibbs had a middle school wing.   After I graduated, they took the middle school wing away and I feel like we are trying to heal wounds that are 25 years old.  My wife and I and I have six kids. I will have kids in school until 2031 and I am glad they will be able to go to middle school in their own Community.”

Other concerns expressed at the meeting included maintaining and enhancing all community schools as well as easing difficulties of students with special needs.

“What I hear loudly and clearly is that you want to have community schools and that you want to make things easier for students with special needs,” Thomas said. “We will have a transition plan in place for those who have to transfer with special needs. And we will give our best effort to keep our communities together.”

“I appreciate you coming here tonight to participate in this discussion with civility. We all love our kids and I think we sent the right message to our kids tonight.”

Future meetings will be held at South-Doyle Middle on January 10, Hardin Valley Elementary January 17, Holston Middle on January 24 and the final meeting will be at Vine Middle School on January 31. All meetings will begin at 6 p.m. The public is encouraged to attend and the school board has also set up an e-mail address to take public input.