School re-zoning plans now face federal judge's ruling - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

School re-zoning plans now face federal judge's ruling

The board unanimously approved the district's proposed re-zoning plan Thursday. The board unanimously approved the district's proposed re-zoning plan Thursday.

The re-zoning plans of Huntsville City Schools are now in the hands of a federal judge. Friday, the district officially filed its "Student Assignment Plan" for approval.

A 71-page document filed with the United States District Court details every change the district wants to make. The plan involves closing some schools, opening new ones, and shifting students around.

The plan was unanimously approved by school board members at a work session Thursday night. But as the district remains under a desegregation order stemming from a 1963 case in federal court, it must receive approval from the Department of Justice to make any changes.

The DOJ does not approve of this plan. In fact, the department has its own plan that it is filing with the courts. Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski said the DOJ's plan is "impractical and less diverse." He said his plan will not bring the school district to unitary status, but it brings the system one step closer. He said the NAACP does not oppose the district's plan.

Both plans include closing McDonnell Elementary School and Butler High School by the 2015 school year, but they greatly differ on where those students would be assigned.

The proposals also greatly differ when it comes to high school feeder patterns. Huntsville City Schools' plan has two attendance zone splits, sending half of Westlawn Middle School students to Columbia High School and the other half to Huntsville High School.

The DOJ's proposal involves 20 attendance zone splits by breaking up typically smaller groups of students into several different schools.

Many parents were at first against the Huntsville plan when it was introduced, but reaction at Thursday's meeting was more positive.

"If you boil it down, it means that we can do it, and we can sustain it, and it will achieve the desired outcomes. It's constitutional, which means it meets the requirements of the courts. We are acting in good faith. We are acting in a manner consistent to the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution," said Wardynski.

Mayor Tommy Battle does not forsee any ramifications for challenging the DOJ and believes the school district's plan will achieve educational success. "We know our community. The two young lawyers from the justice department don't know our area. All we are doing is going to a judge and saying let the local community make the decision," he said.

School officials expect it will take several months for the court to review plans from both sides and make a decision. If approved, Huntsville City Schools said it would take several more months to implement it.

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