Pelham residents ask to stay in Chelsea schools

By KATIE MCDOWELL/General Manager

A group of Pelham residents whose children attend Chelsea schools have asked the Shelby County Board of Education to allow their children to remain in those schools after Pelham City Schools officially splits from Shelby County Schools.

Bob Brown, president of the Oaklyn Hill Homeowners Association, made the request on behalf of five Pelham neighborhoods during a March 20 Shelby County Board of Education meeting in Columbiana. Brown said about 400 homes and more than 200 students are located in Pelham but zoned for Chelsea schools.

“Our ask is quite simple … The Chelsea school residents in our area want the children enrolled – that are currently enrolled and will enroll in the future – to not to go any other school than the Chelsea schools,” he said. “We are looking for a permanent solution for this. We are looking for a solution that can be contractually executed.”

Brown said the parents have been involved in the issue since “day one” and have offered feedback to the Pelham City Council and the Pelham Board of Education. The Pelham City Council first expressed interested in creating a city school system about a year ago when it hired a company to conduct a school feasibility study. The Pelham Board of Education aims to finalize its split from the county school system by July 1.

Brown said the five neighborhoods are located in the northeast side of Pelham. However, he said they are all invested in the Chelsea community, and many bought homes in the neighborhoods because they were zoned for Chelsea schools.

“Our zip code is 35043, which for anyone who doesn’t know, that’s a Chelsea zip code,” he said. “Our mail comes from the Chelsea post office. We shop, we go to church, we play sports in Chelsea.”

Shelby County board member Jimmy Bice asked Brown whether the neighborhoods have considered de-annexing from Pelham.

“I understand that you folks were put into this position without being asked to be in the position you’re in. You didn’t realize what was coming when you bought your home,” he said. “My question is what’s the problem or possibility of de-annexing from Pelham and just keeping our buses running?”

Brown said the affected residents would like to find another solution, if possible.

“I think as neighborhoods we would like to see if the boards of education and superintendents can actually work out an agreement to where de-annexation would not have to be an issue, but I would say that there are other options that all neighborhoods are exploring,” he said.

Board President Aubrey Miller thanked Brown for the presentation and recommendations, but declined further comment during the meeting.

“I know from following this set of circumstances that there is negotiation currently underway between the Pelham City Schools and the Shelby County Schools attorneys,” he said. “I don’t think there’s more that we can say about that.”