BY LAUREN HENRY
It is still a waiting game for three of the four families at Pebble Hill Park who last month ran into unexpected problems enrolling their children in two Greeneville elementary schools.
All four families, including six children, lived at the Pebble Hill mobile home park, located just off Airport Road.
They began the 2012-2013 school year believing that the mobile home park is in Greeneville and that the children are therefore entitled to attend Greeneville schools, without tuition.
In the first few days of the school year, Greeneville City Schools officials thought the same thing.
Two of the children entered Hal Henard Elementary School. The other four either began school at Tusculum View Elementary or were in the process of enrolling there.
Then, on Friday, Aug. 17, school system officials unexpectedly discovered that the mobile home park is actually just outside the city limits.
As a result, as long as that is their residence, the children were no longer eligible to attend city schools unless space becomes available and the parents are willing to pay tuition.
Instead, the families learned that Pebble Hill is zoned for Ottway Elementary School, in the Greene County School System.
Most of the Pebble Hill families immediately indicated willingness to pay tuition to have their children attend city schools as planned.
City Schools officials were sympathetic, and, because the situation resulted from a school system mistake about the zoning, the families were put at the top of the waiting list for tuition openings.
Things have worked out well for the two children who have been attending Hal Henard Elementary School.
However, enrollment by in-Greeneville students at Tusculum View Elementary was still rising as of late August.
At that time, school officials said they were unsure if there would be space for the Pebble Hill students at Tusculum View, even on a tuition basis, and that is still the case.
NO SPACE YET AT T. VIEW
It has been two weeks since The Greeneville Sun wrote about the Pebble Hill families' situation [Aug. 25, 2012).
During those two weeks, the two children that have been attending Hal Henard Elementary for at least a year are continuing to attend there, and no interruption is expected.
But follow-up interviews this week showed that rising -- and fluctuating -- enrollment numbers at Tusculum View have still not left room for the remaining four Pebble Hill students.
While the sudden change in school status on Aug. 17 came as a shock to all four families, it was a particularly hard blow to the three families who had counted on their children's attending Tusculum View.
The year-long misunderstanding about whether Pebble Hill was zoned for the Greeneville City Schools had allowed two of the four children to attend Tusculum View without tuition for the 2011-2012 school year, plus one week this school year.
One of the other two children was a homebound student served through Doak Elementary School, in the County School System, during 2011-2012, and the other child was too young to attend school last year.
This year, however, their mother was in the process of enrolling both children at Tusculum View.
Correcting the zoning error meant sending those four children to county schools, at least temporarily.
'I GUESS I'M DOING OK'
Interviews with the families on Wednesday and Thursday showed that all four families are now looking to move past the chaos of the last three weeks.
"I guess I'm doing OK," said Nicole Miller, whose daughter attended Tusculum View last year and this year until Friday, Aug. 17. Her daughter is now attending Ottway Elementary.
"I'm looking to move into the city or try to pay tuition. But every time I call Ms. Donaldson (principal of Tusculum View Elementary) I get the same runaround, and it's frustrating."
What Miller terms "the runaround" is being informed by Tusculum View officials that there is still not space available for out-of-zone students, even if they pay tuition.
It doesn't matter that Miller's name is at the top of the waiting list. City students are continuing to enroll, and the space simply isn't there.
'NO EASY SOLUTION'
"There is no easy solution for this," said Dr. Linda Stroud, director of Greeneville City Schools. "We are packed full."
The enrollment growth is taking place even though classes have been in session for almost a month now.
Pat Donaldson, principal at Tusculum View Elementary, said this unpredictable, continuing enrollment growth at the beginning of the school year has been a trend for the past several years.
She blames the poor economy for the increasing number of families that move frequently to find work. In recent years, she said, it has taken several months before the class rolls settle.
"The transitional population continues to grow every year," Donaldson explained. And as this population grows, the number of students that enter the school year late grows.
In addition, it is not unusual for there to be a number of students who attended Tusculum View the previous year and are still on roll, but who don't show up at the school at the beginning of the school year.
Dr. Stroud said the schools have effectively cleaned up their data at this point and accounted for students from last year who simply never showed up.
'WANTS TO GO BACK'
Nicole Miller understands the difficult position the city school system has to deal with, but she indicated that her patience is growing thin.
"I told Ms. Donaldson I wasn't going to call anymore," she said. "I'm done wasting my time."
Miller's daughter, Ashlyn, has attended Ottway for the past three weeks. Her mother still has hopes that this is only temporary.
"She is making it there, but she really wants to go back to Tusculum View," Miller said.
She explained that it is more than just separation from friends that makes Ashlyn miss her old school.
The class structure at Tusculum View allows the children to transition among three classes, she said. At Ottway Ashlyn is a part of only one class.
'WOULD BE WORTH MOVING'
Boone Lethco and Summer Wesley's son Seth is not being challenged by the pace of Ottway Elementary, his parents say.
"Seth is learning all the same material he learned last year, and he is becoming bored with it," Lethco said.
For Lethco, moving his son back to the city school system is imperative. The choice is between paying tuition, if space becomes available, or moving into Greeneville.
"It would be worth it [moving inside the city limits] for a better education," Lethco said.
STILL TRYING TO DECIDE
The Hickmans -- a mother and two elementary-age children -- also tried to attend Tusculum View, where they were welcomed until the zoning error was discovered.
Rachel Hickman's son attended the school for one day before the zoning error was discovered. Her special-needs daughter was in the process of being enrolled there also when the zoning mistake was found.
Now, her son James, who is kindergarten age, is attending Ottway, and her daughter Hayley is ready to leave the homebound program to begin sixth grade at Chuckey-Doak Middle School.
Hayley had been learning via homebound teacher through Doak Elementary School.
Doak officials made the decision to move her up a year in order to have her attend C-DMS instead of Ottway, after it became impossible -- at least for the moment -- to enroll her in the city schools.
Hickman says she is still trying to decide what is best for her family and is torn among the options of staying, waiting to pay tuition, or finding a home in Greeneville.
HOWARDS CHOSE TO MOVE
The fourth family of the Pebble Hill group is Amber Howard and her two daughters. The Howard girls are still at Hal Henard Elementary, where they have always attended school.
After the zoning dilemma surfaced in mid-August, Howard made the decision to move into Greeneville to a home zoned for Hal Henard.
The girls had been attending Hal Henard while living at Pebble Hill Park because that is where they had begun school before Howard moved into the mobile home park from a different residence in Greeneville.
Hal Henard School officials, believing Pebble Hill was inside Greeneville but zoned for Tusculum View, decided to allow the girls to continue to attend classes at Hal Henard.
When the discovery came that Pebble Hill was actually outside Greeneville, the school continued to let the Howard girls attend while the zoning situation was resolved. But Amber Howard was already thinking about moving again, into Greeneville.
"I gave [the children] the option of continuing to live where we were and change schools," Howard said, "or moving and still attending Hal Henard."
The girls chose to move, and stay at Hal Henard.
"I wish it hadn't happened in the first place, but it couldn't have worked out better," Howard said this week.
Meanwhile, back at Pebble Hill Park, the three remaining families are seriously considering the solution that Howard found: a move into Greeneville so that their children would clearly be entitled to attend city schools, without tuition.
"If I could find somewhere to live [in the city] today, I would move ... today," said Miller.