Letter: rezoning from a Lenox Placer’s point of view
I asked parents with children in the City Schools of Decatur system to send in letters about the current rezoning proposals for K-3 schools.
CSD is redrawing the attendance zones to accommodate the reopening of Westchester Elementary this fall.
I’m still planning to post letters for the next couple of days. The School Board meets on Tuesday to discuss the top three options. If you have a letter, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep it short, thoughtful and constructive.
Lori Murphy, from Lenox Place, wrote in. Here’s her take:
Like many families we moved to Decatur specifically for the idea of neighborhood schools and looked forward to being able to walk our boys every day. Part of the reason we chose the Lenox Place neighborhood was because of a walkable elementary, as starting next year we will have 6 consecutive years with an elementary-aged child. So, this decision will impact us for some time.
I have attended all committee meetings as an observer, which has been interesting. Based on where things stand now our neighborhood is advocating for Map 6, which is the only map that keeps us in Oakhurst. It also has the advantage of keeping Winnona Park intact and families from MAK going to Winnona, which they have requested. So, no one community would be overburdened with change in this specific map, which is why we think it is the strongest one for consideration.
The other two maps, as they are now, place an undue hardship on our neighborhood. We would be the only neighborhood in Decatur to not have a walkable elementary school, which is especially difficult as it is not like we’ve never had it, but instead something we have that is treasured and valued would be taken away from us.
And our families walk a lot! It has been so fun to see. It gives our streets a vibrant buzz that even those without kids say they would miss. And they walk not just to the school, but to the surrounding Oakhurst restaurants, parks, friends’ houses, and more; this decision impacts not just the school day, but how parents and kids spend their weekends as well. As a result our families get all the advantages that walking brings – fitness, well being, and higher levels of involvement at school than is possible if we are bussing or sitting in cars for drop off and pick up each day. When talking to neighbors about why they love our neighborhood the experience that comes from walking to school is always top of the list, and I have been looking forward to enjoying this activity with my own family.
I would also urge that decisions be based on the here and now rather than on what could happen. I know there is speculation on which neighborhoods will grow the most (my money is on Westchester) but it seems wrong to dramatically harm a neighborhood for things that may or may not materialize in the future. If Lenox Place is rezoned, then effective immediately a community that has reached out over this issue from day one, that clearly values being able to walk to school, and that has bonded as a community through this activity will have it taken away. Our quality of life, community ties, neighborhood value, and parental involvement will be negatively impacted, and I’d hate to see that happen based on potential scenarios that may or may not be realized.
I should add, I just read Allison Taylor’s piece on your web site and she makes some good points that I hope are also taken into consideration. I think there is a chance that the right map, and the ultimate map that gets chosen, is not one we have seen yet. I am glad the board is taking some time to look at all angles and ensure a good decision is made. My hope is that they find a way to balance things as best they can without unfairly harming any one area, and that a year from now we can all look back and reflect on the process as a fair one where all community input was valued and taken to heart.
Thank you Decaturish for giving us a venue to bring different thoughts to the table on this issue.
PS – For more information on why walking matters, here are a couple of good links:
Why Walking Matters (includes a great Ted X Talk) http://www.smarttrips.ca/CM/Page4025.aspx?Panel=Reading&EntryID=3117820
Why Safe Routes to School Matter http://www.thinkactbehealthy.org/saferoutes/pdfs/WhySRTSMattersFlorida.pdf