The West and the Rest

For as long as I can remember, there has been much talk of the division between South Huntsville and North Huntsville whenever the Huntsville City Schools system is the topic. But if you look at the zoning maps, you’ll see that the most radical division is that between the West and the rest of Huntsville.

It’s hard to get a clear picture of this since it’s an Adobe file. Best to go here and see for yourself.

Basically, west of 53/Jordan and north of Sparkman and west of Wynn, you have two school zones: 2 elementary schools (Providence and Williams), 2 middle schools — for now– soon to be 1 (Providence and Williams), and 1 high school (Columbia [NewCentury is also in the West but is an unzoned school of choice. Columbia occupies part of New Century’s building]). Providence and Williams’ buildings both accommodate K-8, bringing the total number of facilities in the West to 3.

In the rest of Huntsville, you have 5 magnet schools, 22 elementary, 9 middle, and 5 high schools. All of these except the magnets are in separate facilities; total: 36.

The two West zones cover an enormous area. The farthest northern point is a small stretch along 53 that ends at Kelly Springs. The farthest western stretch is along I65, and the farthest southern point is at the Tennessee River, south of Triana.

Using Google maps, it looks like the farthest north point where there are homes is the subdivision south of Nick Davis and west of Old Railroad Bed. It looks like this may be the farthest populated western area as well; the rest of the zone appears to be all farmland, with a few stretches of homes excluded in the City’s annexations. Down south, it looks like Roundtree Pl is the southernmost residential street.

From northernmost houses to southernmost is about 18 miles, from western to eastern, 10.5 miles.(Nick Davis/Old Railroad to Hwy 53 is about 7.5, and it’s another 3 miles to the easternmost point, at Hwy 53 and Oakwood.)

For comparison’s sake, the distance from Johnson to Grissom High is 13.6 miles via the Parkway (12.3 if you get off to Pulaski Pike).

For the rest of Huntsville, the southernmost residential street is probably Adkins Dr. off Hobbs Island Rd, and northernmost, Liberty Hill. These are about 25 miles apart. West to east, imagining lines extending along Carter’s Gin and McMullen, is maybe 10 miles.

Comparison of West Huntsville to the Rest:

  • West (N to S): 18 miles.
  • Rest (N to S): 25 miles
  • West (E to W): 10 miles.
  • Rest (E to W):10 miles

Number of school facilities [buildings, campuses] in August 2011:

  • West: 3
  • Rest: 36

There is nothing as far as I can see to be done about this: it is what it is.

But you have to wonder if the City of Huntsville thought about education as it continued annexing lands.

When the Rest of Huntsville talks about preserving neighborhood schools, it sounds like a good idea. Frankly, neighborhoods sound like a good idea. But you look at this map, and it is obvious that for most of the West, neighborhood schools aren’t there to preserve.

And Even When You Do Plan…

I remember when the Village of Providence was built. It was supposed to be

a real neighborhood, not just a development. It is a pedestrian friendly village where residents will have the freedom to live, learn, work, shop and play in an authentic neighborhood built upon time-tested principles of traditional architecture and town planning. . . .

Another important civic element is our school, which serves kindergarten through eighth grade. The Huntsville Board of Education worked tirelessly to develop a school that promotes the “neighborhood school concept” where children can actually walk to school. The design complements the traditional landscape of Providence and is the backdrop for childhood memories for generations to come.

But nearly as soon as Providence K-8 opened, it was overcrowded. And now the Middle School’s days are numbered, and the Providence villagers’ middle schoolers will not be walking to school. Far from it, in all ways.

And Then There is the Lee Question

By all accounts, Lee High School was falling apart. A new facility or extreme renovations were needed. But why did the HCS decide to turn Lee into the high school with the largest capacity in town? Lee High School’s enrollment last year was 807, down from 870 five years before, and  projected 2015-16 enrollment is 761. So why has Lee been built to accommodate a student capacity of 1672? Lee is off Oakwood and Andrew Jackson. It is not where new growth is or is anticipated to be, as best I can figure.

At least the Situation is good for Master of Urban Planning Students

There are so many great thesis topics just waiting for writers. Get busy, grad students. Maybe you can make some sense of this; I can’t.

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One thought on “The West and the Rest

  1. This is exactly what we on the west have been wondering about. We see Huntsville’s hopes fall down flat into hype when translated into public education for the west’s residents. Help us get more organized to speak up.

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