School district boundaries respond to demographics
School districts can't remain static. Boundaries must change sometimes. Shifts in population and demographics demand such changes, so that school buildings can be most efficiently utilized.
It's a simple proposition, but putting it into practice is complicated, as we are seeing in Knox County. The public school system's redistricting proposals affect 11 of the county's 12 high schools and as many as 3,400 students.
The proposals, which would go into effect in the 2008 school year, would be voted on by the school board May 2, unless that vote is delayed to make way for a communitywide process that would take public input into consideration in drawing the district lines.
Given the emotion that has been stirred in the weeks since the proposals were aired, giving the general public an opportunity to argue out the redistricting details might become the equivalent of poking a big stick into a hornet's nest.
That being said, the parents of public-school students should have the right to appeal the effects of redistricting decisions on an individual basis, with a fair, open and orderly appeals process conducted in a suitable public forum.
There are hardships that can't be denied. Those may include seeming absurdities, such as residences across the street from one school that have been redistricted to another. It won't include having to make new friends at another school, which is more of an opportunity than a drawback.
Every effort is being made by the school administration to see that students who reach a certain grade level in high school will be grandfathered into that school and given the chance to graduate where they first enrolled. They may have to make provision for their own transportation to their original school, but they'll be allowed to remain as students there.
There is more than sufficient reason behind the redistricting plan. The opening next year of the new Hardin Valley High School is the main impetus; it was built to relieve overcrowding and help restore equitable student population distribution at Farragut, Karns, Bearden and West High Schools. Introducing that new school will have a domino effect that reaches clear across the county. It promises to be a great new school, but it will have an affect on more than its immediate neighbors. Some people, scattered throughout the system, will inevitably feel uprooted.
What redistricting never does is satisfy those who have established residency at a particular location because of their desire to raise their families in a specific school district and who are about to be reassigned to another district. There are no guarantees in a real estate transaction that the property's current school district is to be a permanent feature.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that many people don't stay put, and that those who do eventually reach an age where their children are no longer in school. Those shifts make it impossible to keep district lines in place for more than a few years at a time.
The best that can be said with assurance is that moving to a different school district will mean attracting new friends and acquaintances without necessarily losing those left behind in the former district. People do get around these days, and interpersonal communications were never at a higher level. Cell phones are ubiquitous and instant-messaging is, well, instantaneous.
People will get used to the change, and there will be those who, in a matter of fairly little time, may well suggest that the redistricting was the best thing that happened to their family. We shall see. But what is certain is that we shall see change.
Last week's Metro Pulse editorial rose to the defense of the Virginia Tech administration, which was under fire for its handling of the situation that degenerated into a bloody shooting spree that left 32 innocent students and faculty members dead and 20 more wounded.
The gunman, a disgruntled and deranged student, killed himself as police closed in. At the time, we did not know the depths of his despair or the ways in which he was drawn to commit senseless, deadly violence, wholesale murder.
When NBC released parts of the package of materials the gunman had sent to the network's headquarters, the images he supplied and the irrational statements he sent along with those images explained a lot.
They also offended a great number of people who protested that the materials, which were supplied to investigators before being aired on television, should not have been presented to the public so soon after the massacre and that to do so was â“insensitive.â”
People were horrified at the time and were angry. In that anger, they might have objected to anything, particularly any more news coverage of the events and the perpetrator.
We submit that there would have been a greater outcry, perhaps from some of the same persons, had the network chosen to declare that it would hold back from public view the young gunman's self-depictions and terrible, troubling explanations of himself.
The upshot of the public examination of the gunman's pathetic attempt to justify his actions is that our original estimation of the blamelessness of the university was positively punctuated.
If the university had expelled the obviously troubled student, which was all the school was empowered legally to do before the blowup, he would very likely have done the same thing.
It was neither predictable nor in any reasonable scenario preventable. That it happened is awful. But it could have happened anywhere in our free society.
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