Students in Washington County can no longer stray outside their designated zones to enroll in four overcrowded schools.
In an effort to relieve overcrowding, the Washington County Board of Education voted Thursday night to close enrollment to new students who reside outside the attendance zones of Boones Creek and Jonesborough schools, but rejected a similar measure that would have closed enrollment at all schools in the district.
“We have Boones Creek Middle, which is over capacity — it runs somewhere between 102 and 105 percent capacity — and it has been for a very long time, we have Boones Creek Elementary, which is running around 92 percent capacity, and we have Jonesborough Elementary, which we think this year will be at 100 percent capacity,” Director of Schools Ron Dykes told the board. “Because Jonesborough Elementary feeds into the middle school and is essentially on the same grounds, we thought it was only logical to include as part of closed enrollment.”
To keep those schools from continuing their enrollment climb, Dykes recommended barring outside students from enrolling at those schools, adding them to the other zones that don’t allow students to cross into their zones, including Lamar, Grandview, Ridgeview and Gray.
“What we know is enrollment at Jonesborough Elementary has disproportionately risen when at Grandview, it has declined,” the director said. “There hasn’t been a massive increase in construction or of families moving into the Jonesborough zone, so what we suspect is that we’re having students coming from one of the other schools to that zone.”
But board members, concerned that the policy would split some families into two different schools, amended the proposal to include a two-year period when siblings of students already attending those schools would be allowed to enroll. After the 2014-15 school year, no students from outside the Boones Creek or Jonesborough zones will be allowed to enroll for classes.
The original proposal recommended by the Facilities Committee sought to close enrollment in all zones, including both high schools, but it failed with a 3-6 vote.
“I don’t see why we would do it at all the others and not the high schools,” said board member Todd Ganger, who was joined in supporting the total closure measure by Keith Ervin and Mary Lo Silvers. “We should do it before we have problems; we’re already close to having problems at some of the other schools.”
But BOE Vice Chair Chad Williams said the two county high schools offer different programs, which should be available to students no matter where they live.
“I know the freshman year is critical,” he said. “That time is difficult enough, and as a parent, when we were faced with that decision, my daughters chose to go to a high school that was not in our zone.
“We felt it was best for them and their success, and I’m very pleased that they had that opportunity,” Williams said.
Board member David Hammond echoed his concerns, saying the vocational classes students choose to take could shape their futures.
“The next step after high school is college or going for a job,” Hammond said. “The vocational programs at the schools do not offer the same classes, and I don’t want to lock Washington County students out of what they’ve chosen for their lives.”
According to figures recently released from the 2012-13 school year by a firm hired to create a long-range plan for the district, Boones Creek and Jonesborough elementaries are both above 100 percent of their capacities, as is Boones Creek Middle School. Jonesborough Middle School operated at 79 percent capacity last year.
At the other four schools where enrollment is already closed, student attendance ranges from 93 to 98 percent capacity, which the hire analysts said was a good functional target.
According to the data, Daniel Boone High School was at full capacity last year, which David Crockett was at 82 percent.
Fall Branch, South Central, Sulphur Springs and West View elementaries remain open for outside enrollment.