Questions swirl around possible Signal Mountain split from HCDE

If Signal Mountain were to form an independent school district, the Town Council would need to vote to hold a referendum. (Image: WTVC)

It's been a year since discussion of Signal Mountain forming its own school district came about, but the town isn't any closer to making a decision. Questions about a split still swirl in parents' minds despite a report from a viability committee that researched the topic for months.

For months now, Melissa Barrett attended meetings on Signal Mountain about the possibility of an independent school district. That topic dominated last night's town council meeting. Barrett just wants answers about the future of her 7th grader's school.

"I want to sure that my friends that have special needs children have their needs covered," said Melissa Barrett. "I want to be sure that my friends who live in unincorporated Hamilton County have a voice...Because of those unanswered questions - I think it's premature for anyone to say they're definitely against or for it."

Barrett says she is undecided and has about five main questions about a split.

"I am happy with the school and education he's had so far," said Barrett. "There have been instances through I felt there could be more done...I just want discussion with all parties at the table."

The Signal Mountain Viability found an independent school system could support its self, and leaving HCDE would not have a negative financial impact. The study took the committee months to complete, but Dan Liner, President of the Hamilton County Education Association doubts its findings.

"Often there are opportunities based on the enrollment such as grants that would be available from the state and various agencies," said Dan Liner. "So those opportunities may not be as plentiful."

School Board member Kathy Lennon represents the schools on Signal Mountain and doesn't want a split. She says it should be put to a vote so residents can decide once and for all and, so all parties can work through the financial impact and other elements.

"It's disrupting the education process of our children right now," said Kathy Lennon. "It's disrupting the teachers. So they need to go ahead and take a vote or put it to rest so that we can move on."

The Signal Mountain Town Council will have public meetings in the future to discuss the potential split. If a split were to happen, the Signal Mountain Town Council would need to vote to have a referendum.

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