Huntsville City Schools, Department of Justice announce consent in months-long mediation; some issues remain

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Monday, Huntsville City Schools announced major new developments in the mediation with the U.S. Department of Justice in the school rezoning case.

Both sides have released a Proposed Consent Order intended to resolve remaining issues.   According to a statement released by Huntsville City Schools, this agreement is supported by the U.S, Department of Justice and the Huntsville City Schools Administration and Board legal counsel.

Read the documents here:

There will be public meetings later this week and next week on the matter at several area high schools. Those public forums will take place at Lee High School at 10:00 am on Saturday, January 31, Columbia High School at 6:00 pm on Monday, February 2, and at Huntsville High School at 6:00 pm on Tuesday, February 3.

Students will take home materials today, and the public can also comment on the website, ProposedConsentOrder.com.  The public can comment until February 8, 2015.  The proposal, if passed, would take effect in the 2015-16 school year.

Last June, a federal judge ordered Huntsville City Schools and the U.S. Department of Justice to mediation after hearing school rezoning plans from sides.  This development is the result of that mediation.

Both parties issued statements about the proposed consent.

"Since last summer, we have been negotiating with the Department of Justice to ultimately achieve the goal of unitary status. When we entered into mediation, I stated this opportunity would improve our school system for all of our children. My administration, its counsel and the Department of Justice have created an agreement for consideration by the public and the court. This agreement addresses the factors identified by the Supreme Court to become a unitary system. These factors include student assignment, faculty assignment, extracurricular activities, transportation, facilities, and an additional factor of student discipline. This agreement is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, my administration and board legal counsel," said Dr. Casey Wardynski, Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools.

Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice say the proposal is a good step forward.

"A quality education is the key that opens the door to a better future," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta for the Civil Rights Division.  "This agreement aims to ensure that African American students in Huntsville schools can access that quality education on an equal basis.  We look forward to working with the district to implement the measures required by this proposed order, if approved, and eventually bring this case to successful resolution after so many years."

"The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that Alabama schools provide African American students, and all students, with the equal educational opportunities guaranteed under federal law," said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance for the Northern District of Alabama.

A hearing on the matter is tentatively scheduled for March 11.

Feeder Patterns

Feeder patterns are different in this new plan, compared to the previous one issued by Huntsville City Schools.  Before, some elementary students split to go to different middle schools, and then met up at the same high school.  This new proposal simplifies things:

Columbia High School Feeder Pattern
Williams P-5 and Providence P-5 feed to Williams 6-8; Morris P-5 and Ridgecrest P-5 feed to Westlawn 6-8; Williams 6-8 and Westlawn 6-8 feed to Columbia High School

Huntsville High School Feeder Pattern
Hampton Cove P-5 and Goldsmith Schiffman P-5 feed to Hampton Cove 6-8; Blossomwood P-6, Monte Sano P-6, Jones Valley P-6 and Sonnie Hereford P-6 feed to Huntsville 7-8; Hampton Cove 6-8 and Huntsville 7-8 feed to Huntsville High School

Grissom High School Feeder Pattern
Whitesburg P-5, Chaffee P-5 and McDonnell P-5 feed to Whitesburg 6-8; Farley P-5 and Challenger P-5 feed to Challenger 6-8; Mountain Gap P-5 and Weatherly P-5 feed to Mountain Gap 6-8; Whitesburg 6-8, Challenger 6-8 and Mountain Gap 6-8 feed to Grissom High School

Jemison High School Feeder Pattern
Rolling Hills P-6, Lakewood P-6, Dawson P-6 and Highland P-6 feed to McNair 7-8; McNair 7-8 feeds to Jemison High School

Lee High School Feeder Pattern
Chapman P-5, MLK P-5 and Montview P-5 feed to Chapman 6-8, Chapman 6-8 feeds to Lee High School

Read extensive coverage on WHNT.com of the school rezoning case.