A school redistricting plan in Jessamine County failed Monday night in an emotionally charged meeting that saw two parents removed for speaking out after being warned not to disrupt the meeting.
There was a 2-2 tie vote and three votes were needed to approve the plan, said school board attorney Howard Downing.
School board members Hallie Bandy and Debbie Hood voted for the plan that would move students from Rosenwald-Dunbar Elementary to Brookside Elementary and some middle and high school students from West Jessamine middle and high schools to East Jessamine middle and high schools..
John Branscum and Bobby Welch voted against it. Board chair Amy Day recused herself because she owned property in the area that would have been redistricted. Board members went into a closed session on another issue immediately after the vote. Some school board members said during the meeting they wanted more time to review options.
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Parent Virginia Mims, one of those asked to leave the school board meeting, had spoken out during the meeting to ask for a public hearing on redistricting, a request she said had been denied recently. Earlier at the meeting, Mims had given the board a formal presentation on redistricting options she thought they should consider.
“Before the vote was going to happen, I did feel like it was necessary to say that our voices needed to be heard, that we needed a public forum,” Mims said.”We had been warned that any further disruption would result in removal, so the removal did not come as a surprise. It was worth it to remind the board that they were voting without having adequately heard and considered input from the public,” Mims told the Herald-Leader Tuesday morning.
Mims had said that the Jessamine County Board of Education was attempting to “quickly and quietly” change attendance zones in some of the same neighborhoods they redistricted four years ago without giving parents enough time to respond. She said parents had little notice about the school board's vote on the plan.
Patrice Jones, director of public relations for the Jessamine school district, said parents were given a specific time to speak during the meeting, but were told by Nicholasville Police Officer Kevin Grimes not to speak out during other times. Mims and the other parents left the meeting peacefully, Grimes said.
After the failed vote, Downing, the attorney, told school board members they could discuss the redistricting issue again at a later meeting.
Jones said that about 108 students in elementary, middle and high school would be affected by the redistricting. About 40 residential streets and several business streets appear to be affected. She said that growth in the Brannon Crossing area of north Jessamine County has Rosenwald above capacity, so redistricting is necessary to provide “the optimal learning environment.”
Because of the overcrowding, one section of the Rosenwald library has been turned into a computer lab and another into an instructional area, Jones said.
Jones said parents have known the issue was coming before the board for a month and “had plenty of time to give us feedback and they have.”
She said district officials have talked to several parents.
Parent Heather Butler, whose son is in ninth grade at West Jessamine High School, told the Herald-Leader that she is concerned the move will have “impacts on my child both socially and academically.”
A post on the district website said the Jessamine County Public Schools board heard about three options for redistricting for the 2017-18 school year at its Feb. 13 board work session.
Of the three plans, option 2 “seems the most favorable,” district officials said. That involves moving some attendance areas that are now Rosenwald-Dunbar Elementary to Brookside Elementary. School board members said at Monday’s meeting that students in fourth grade and above would not be redistricted, that they would be “grandfathered” in.
School officials said that the redistricting was necessary in order to provide an optimal learning environment in that Rosenwald-Dunbar’s current enrollment of 671 is greater than the building capacity of 620. The school also has the fastest-growing housing subdivision within its attendance boundary and a strong potential for continued growth, the website said. Meanwhile, Brookside has a capacity of 630 and a current enrollment of 519, the website said.
Other options presented included changing a smaller attendance area from Rosenwald to Brookside, impacting fewer students, but also providing a more short-term solution. The most long-term solution of the three plans, option 3, would impact the largest number of students, and address not only concerns with the Rosenwald enrollment, but also reverse a considerable reduction in enrollment at Nicholasville Elementary due to demographic changes and balance enrollment at all schools, school officials said on the website.
The overcrowding continues at Jessamine middle and high schools, Jones said.
The East Jessamine Middle School capacity is 1,000, Jones said., and projected enrollment for 2017-18 is 830. The West Jessamine Middle capacity is 885. The projected enrollment for 2017-18 is 987. There are larger numbers at the high school level, she said. The capacity at East Jessamine High School is 966 students; the projected enrollment for 2017-18 is 1,025 students. West Jessamine High School’s capacity is 918, the projected enrollment for 2017-18 is 1,244 students.