In Which I Solve Nashville’s School Zoning Problem.

So, we’re rezoning the schools in Nashville, resulting, entirely coincidently, in a great majority of the poor black kids in town being shuttled to one school. DB had convinced me that it wasn’t as simple as that, but, if Pedro Garcia is being honest, it seems as if the rezoning may be, in part, exactly about removing black kids from some schools (see everything over at Pith on this for more information: here, here, and here. Oh, and here.).

I have a solution.

1. More neighborhood elementary schools. We make a vow, as a city, that no elementary school age child in Davidson County is too far to walk to school. We’d have to put a ton of sidewalks in, but we need to put a ton of sidewalks in anyway. We aim to keep the population at these schools around 1,200 students, which would give us (assuming the private school people stay away in the proportion they’ve been staying away), about 20 elementary schools.

2. Ten junior highs around town.

3. One high school, centrally located, easily accessible by public transportation (which would mean, yes, we’d have to put money into our public transportation, but we need to do that anyway, and this would be a nice catalyst). Every kid who goes to public school goes to high school one place, on one campus. By my estimation, this would be about 25,000 students, which, I know, seems ridiculous, to have 25,000 students on one campus.

But is it really? That’s about the size of UT-Knoxville and they manage.

Where would such a school go? It seems to me that it would have to go downtown, where it would be centrally located, but such a school would need a massive amount of space. I don’t see downtown where there’s that kind of real estate prime for redeveloping.

But…

What about just south of downtown?

What if the fairgrounds, and all that industrial stuff between Wedgewood, Berry, and I-65 were all given over to the campus for our hypothetical high school? It’d be near two interstates (I-65 and I-440). It’d be a matter of putting a bus hub there, I suppose.

But, one high school, where everyone goes, equally inconvenient for most people, almost everyone’s bussed there, and then the ratio is what it is. If the school is all black, that’s because white parents have pulled their kids into private school. If it’s mostly poor kids, same deal.

But maybe we need to stop dicking around with all this “choice” where a choice is what the lucky kids get and screw the rest.

I don’t know. Maybe that’s unworkable. But I swear, if I have to read more stuff like “‘The faculty, after some conversations about the proposal, indicated they believed the school did not need to close,’ Garcia says. ‘They believed that after the black students presently attending Blackmeade [sic, should read “Brookemeade”] Elementary were moved to Metro Center as the student assignment plan recommended, many white families would come back to the school. The faculty, in general, indicated the school would be full of white students presently attending private schools.'” I will be sick to my stomach.

If that’s true (and it is possible that Garcia’s just settling some scores), some people need to be very, very ashamed of themselves.

5 thoughts on “In Which I Solve Nashville’s School Zoning Problem.

  1. Not only is your plan very impractical (25,000 students in one school? Where would we put such a huge campus?), it would cause more harm than good. Even more students will fall through the cracks. Yeah, UT does it, but imagine all the classes having hundreds of students like gen-eds at UT. It would be impossible for a teacher to give any student individual attention. And what about mainstreaming students with disabilities? It would be even more difficult in a class that large.
    Also, not only would you be eliminating terrible schools, but also wonderful schools, like MLK and Hume Fogg. You want the students at MLK – some of the most gifted in the nation – to be dragged down to the lowest common denominator in a class of 150? That’s not fair to the gifted students or the students who need extra help. I don’t think any of those things is worth it to make the racial ratio more equal.

  2. Great idea. Central planning and humungous beaurocracy worked great for the soviets! Let’s apply it here.
    What’s the worst that could happen?

  3. Exador, we already have those things, so… what? The school system will turn into Soviet Russia and everyone will memorize Pushkin and stay constantly drunk and depressed? Oh, no, not that! Not poetry and vodka!

  4. Well, B, I have to say that putting 25,000 teenagers into the same school building will probably increase alcohol consumption pretty drastically.

    I dunno; I went to public school in a district that was left out of a two-county-wide court-ordered redistricting because we were both racially integrated and academically successful. (And the parents raised holy hell about that, because some of the magnet schools created by the redistricting were even better than our high school, and they wanted to be able to send their kids.) But it has skewed my viewpoint: I figure that you have to put money into the schools for buildings, technology, good teachers, all sorts of stuff; and you have to start by being demanding with kids from the first grade; and you’ll end up with good schools. Here, they seem to want to start from the other end (futz around with districts first, invest in good teachers, tech, clubs, etc. last) so I don’t quite know how to comment on any of it.

  5. I’m certainly not wed to a central school, but I also think that we’re stuck with some pretty ingrained mindsets about what can be done for our school system and I think it’s about time to make some more radical proposals.

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