UPDATE: Parents provide input on facilities study for Hamilton County Schools
UPDATE: Wednesday evening, the future of schools in Hamilton County was discussed at a community forum at Lookout Valley Middle/High. Recommendations for which schools to close and which to combine were met with pushback.
Parents at the meeting had strong reactions to the preliminary proposals.
The main concern was the community aspect of the schools. Parents are fearful closing down schools and combining with others is going to mess with the community they have already created. They're also concerned each individual student isn't going to be valued as much with higher enrollment.
Dan Schmidt with MGT Consulting Group stood up in front of an auditorium full of frustrated parents and community members to share his preliminary recommendations for Hamilton County Schools over the next ten years.
Parents didn't take it well.
Chyela Rowe, a mother of children in Hamilton County schools, said, "I had a lot of questions about where the data was coming from, where his recommendations were coming from, the impact of how these programs have altered communities around the country and he didn't have any information on that."
The group's recommendations relocate students from Lookout Valley and Lookout Mountain Elementary School to Lookout Valley Middle and High School making it K-12. Some community members believe this dehumanizes students to numbers in data and growing classroom size is not the answer.
"I do know that over-crowded schools are problematic for the mental, social, emotional, and academic health of students, so it's not good,” Rowe told us.
Those opposed say the ripple effects need to be taken into consideration. Rather than fixing the inequities in the public school system, this is deepening them.
"By just yanking people out of their communities, shoving them in buildings, and pretending we're in a game of Tetris,” Rowe told us.
Rowe went on to say the consulting group's focus on how to get best use out of the facilities caused them to lose sight of the best interest of the students.
"I can't imagine how challenging that would be for kids to have to move schools during that developmental period,” Rowe expressed to us.
This is all preliminary and the community's input is important for the group to construct their final proposal given in March. If you can't make any of the forums, there is a survey online open until December 15, that the consulting group encourages you to take.
ORIGINAL STORY: MGT, a national consulting firm that specialized in school facilities, has released a survey link to allow the community to provide thoughts on school buildings in Hamilton County.
MGT presented the company’s preliminary findings earlier this year and at this stage and has not been presented to the board as a final recommendation, and the board has not approved a final report.
The survey is the next step to allow MGT to complete a final recommendation to the board by helping MGT get the community's perspective and a better understanding of the role schools play in the social fabric of our community before making final recommendations.
The community can access the survey at https://mgtamer.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ePyWdfHlUaBgUVn The survey will be open until Sunday, December 15. The survey will include some details to explain current recommendations from MGT in the survey.
There will be several community meetings that will be held and it will be open to the entire community. The meetings will provide information about the MGT preliminary plan and allow those attending to respond to questions electronically during the meeting.
The community meeting dates are:
Hixson High, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Harrison Elementary, 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Lookout Valley Middle/High Schools, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Dalewood Middle, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
East Brainerd Elementary, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
For more information, you can view the MGT preliminary report on the Hamilton County Schools website under Building Our Future. The survey can also be accessed from the district website.