While some worry that the proposed middle school rezoning plan will undo years of desegregation efforts and land Knox County Schools in federal court, the two players most likely to be on opposite sides of the courtroom look at the issue from very different perspectives, but do not seem overly concerned about that possibility – for now.
“This (plan) is a good first step, as far as it goes,” said NAACP president John Butler, who filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights after the agreement to build a new Gibbs Middle School was unveiled.
A parent said she was “happy when Gibbs got their middle school,” and then she realized that rezoning could draw her Shannondale Elementary School student out of Gresham and into Gibbs. She and some 100 others came last Tuesday to Holston Middle for the fifth of six community meetings on middle school rezoning.
Most parents wanted their kids to move through school with their friends. They wanted siblings to attend school together. Members of the NAACP asked that East Knox neighborhoods be kept intact, and they spoke against busing black kids across town for racial balance.
Knox County is poised to undo much of the rezoning for racial desegregation that has affected families and even home construction for almost 30 years.
The school board must accommodate the fall 2018 opening of two new schools – Gibbs Middle (600 students) and Hardin Valley Middle (1,200). Those 1,800 kids are currently zoned for middle school somewhere else. With several middle schools currently under capacity, the challenge is to fill the new schools while keeping the others open.
Last week, in response to the NAACP’s complaint to the Office of Civil Rights about racial resegregation following construction of two middle schools on the periphery of Knox County, a man who should know better asked, “What are they mad about?”
The late Diane Jablonski quotes Sir Edmund Burke: “If you forget history, you are doomed to repeat it.” Last April the former school board member sent me her recollections of the school rezoning in 1991. Let’s review: