Local realtors seek long-term solution to school rezoning - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Local realtors seek long-term solution to school rezoning

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Local realtors are weighing in with major concerns on East Hamilton County School rezoning, adding fuel to the fiery debate.

Channel 3 first reported in late February, Superintendent Rick Smith's ideas to alleviate over-crowding in East Hamilton and Ooltewah schools, and the concern from parents.

Monday, Channel 3 received a copy of a letter signed by members of the Board of Directors of The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, stating major opposition to the proposed school rezoning plans in East Hamilton County.

Now we're breaking down this new argument, which expands the battle beyond angry parents.

"Our children deserve better than a patch," says Mark Hite, president of The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors. "Our children deserve the right education, quality education."

The president of The Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors reacts to comments from school Superintendent Rick Smith.

The dust up is the result of the superintendent's rezoning plan to relieve overcrowding at East Hamilton.

This plan that would displace many students from their current school, schools their families had just moved to the area for their children to attend.

"Many homeowners first search schools where they want their children to go," Hite says. "Then we show them homes that fit their criteria."

Hite says realtors are standing up for the homeowners.

In a letter, the realtors association urged elected officials to slow the process down.

"We're literally talking two weeks and a proposed vote is coming up Thursday," Hite says. "We just don't feel that's enough time for people to make decisions. Well, that's not giving them much notice."

And Hite is working to preserve property values.  If a home is suddenly redistricted to a lower performing school, a family's bottom line can take a hit, especially at resale time.

"I am not about property value," Superintendent Smith told parents during a rezoning meeting. "You know, I'm about educating students."

"But, I am also not an educator," Hite says. "But I am very careful when I am working with a family to point out what the schools are zoned for, direct them to the appropriate county web site be it Hamilton County, Catoosa County, any of the neighboring areas where we work so they can see how the schools they're looking at perform."

It is important to note the proposal is only a draft. The school board will have to adopt the changes.

Members could vote as early as March 15.

Here's the entire letter by the Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS:

As REALTORS®, we are concerned about Superintendent Smith's proposal to rezone areas of East Hamilton County and Ooltewah, the fastest growing areas of our county.  The proposal appears to have been hastily prepared without public input and, most importantly, lacks a long term plan to address the expected growth in that area of the county.  Without a long term solution, overcrowding will continue to plague these schools.

We know that many of our clients select specific schools for their children first then look at neighborhoods zoned to those schools to purchase a home.  Forcing a parent to change schools, or split their children between schools is difficult, disruptive and emotional.  These types of decisions by elected officials should not be made lightly but rather be a deliberate, open, transparent process that involves the community and looks at all options before the difficult decision is made to move students to a new school.

Additionally, arbitrary rezoning, such as Superintendent Smith's current proposal, is detrimental to property values, community morale and could easily dissuade businesses from expanding here or relocating to Hamilton County.  However a well thought out plan with community involvement that improves our schools would likely have significant community support and help us continue to recruit more businesses to our area.

The Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS® calls on our School Board members to vote against Superintendent Smith's proposal if it is brought to a vote.  We urge our elected School Board members to take a step back, study the problem, work with the community and craft a long term solution that provides the children of our county with the best possible education.  Our children deserve nothing less.

Further we call on the School Board, the County Commission and all elected officials to put political agendas aside and work together for the good of our schools.  This is not a time for finger pointing but a time where we can all come together with a common goal.  With great schools our county can continue to grow while our children learn in a positive environment, flourish and grow up to give back to our community.

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