Farragut neighborhood wrestles with high school zoning

Kelly NorrellWest Knox

A small but spirited group of parents attended a public hearing at Farragut High School Sept. 21 over the redrawing of zoning lines between Farragut High and Hardin Valley Academy.

About 12 parents met with nearly that many school system representatives, including Superintendent Bob Thomas, Farragut High principal Ryan Siebe, and Russ Oaks, chief operating officer of Knox County Schools.

Since 2008, a pocket of Farragut located southwest of I-40 has been zoned to attend Hardin Valley Academy, even though its children grow up attending Farragut elementary and middle schools. The area, bound by Everett Road to the east, Kingston Pike to the south, and Watt Road to the west, includes about 169 high school students.

Concerns parents named included disruption of friendships, a sense of exclusion from the Farragut community, a perceived threat to property values over the zoning uncertainty, and aversion to the high-traffic commute to Hardin Valley.

“When my 14-year-old daughter gets her license, I don’t want her driving on the roads to go to Hardin Valley Academy – Everett, Yarnell or Marietta Church,” said Lisa Loos, who has five children now in Farragut schools and a sixth who is age 4. “I don’t much want a bus driver taking them either.”

“It’s time to put our community back together,” said Louise Povlin, a Farragut alderman and mother of a son now attending Farragut on transfer.

The consensus of the parents and school system officials seemed to be to rezone the area back to Farragut High with a generous grandfathering policy for families that want to stay in Hardin Valley. About half the parents at the meeting said they want their children to attend Hardin Valley.

“We moved here so our daughters could go to Hardin Valley,” said Art and Marea Haught. “Our 10th grader loves Hardin Valley. Her sister wants to go there next year.”

Oaks said at 2,062 students, Hardin Valley is over capacity and that at 1,876 students, Farragut is a little under. Moreover, “due to a liberal transfer policy, 73 of the 169 high school students in the area in question are already at Farragut High School.” That leaves 95 students who attend Hardin Valley.

Loos said families should push for rezoning to Farragut High and not rely on a liberal transfer policy. “In a few years, that may not be the case.”

Matt Podhajsky, father of two sons in middle school, said he came to the hearing for information. “I got the impression that the board is looking for a gut feeling from the parents. The overcrowding at Hardin Valley makes it an easier decision for the school board.”

Thomas and Oaks said the input from the parents would be taken to the school board.

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