Several people who live in Bell Court and Mentelle Park gathered around businessman Alan Stein Tuesday night after a meeting of the Fayette County school redistricting committee that he chairs.
Committee members had decided for the moment not to revisit reassigning those neighborhoods from Morton Middle School to Lexington Traditional Magnet School, and the neighbors were none too happy.
Stein told them they could have recourse when the committee discussed school feeder patterns at an upcoming meeting. Or he said they could take their concerns to school board members who will have final say over the redistricting plan when the committee gives it to them in several weeks.
Currently, those neighborhoods are assigned to Ashland Elementary School, Morton Middle School and Henry Clay High School. The neighborhoods assigned to Ashland Elementary include Bell Court, Mentelle Park, Kenwick and Fairway.
In a redistricting proposal the district released in January, all of Ashland Elementary would have become a feeder school for LTMS instead of Morton.
But two weeks ago, the Fairway and Kenwick neighborhoods petitioned the redistricting committee to keep their neighborhoods in Morton. The committee tentatively agreed to keep Fairway and Kenwick at Morton, leaving Bell Court and Mentelle Park at LTMS.
Morton is classified in the state's accountability system as distinguished/progressing. LTMS is classified as needs improvement/progressing.
The neighbors in Bell Court and Mentelle Park say test scores are not their main concern, but they worry about disruption to children.
Melody Flowers, who lives on Mentelle Park, shared a letter circulating among neighbors that said the committee has carved up Ashland Elementary, with more than half now going to Morton and a smaller number to LTMS.
In addition to contradicting the committee's guiding principles such as socioeconomic balance, the letter pointed to the scenario creating emotional and social hardship on children who would have disjointed experiences moving to a middle school without their peers.
Residents in the letter said it's not an LTMS-versus-Morton issue but a community issue. Most parents in Mentelle Park understand the challenges to redistricting and, though they were not thrilled with the switch from Morton to LTMS, were OK with it as long as all the children from Ashland stayed together in middle school, the letter said.
Julia Burnett, who lives on Sayre Avenue in the Bell Court area, said committee members did not have the opportunity to see 130-plus comments neighbors sent to the district before Stein asked if anyone on the committee wanted to re-open the discussion about Bell Court and Mentelle Park on Tuesday night.
She noted that Stein said that the committee would only revisit a discussion if there was compelling or new information.
"Well now there is now new information which is Ashland Elementary is now an unbalanced split feeder school with only a very few children being separated from their peers when they go to middle school," Burnett said. "That is what has changed and we are calling for a discussion about the unfavorable implications this will have on LTMS, breaking up a community and an elementary school feeder pattern."
Stein said after Tuesday's meeting that if all the students at issue were kept at Morton, LTMS would be undercapacity and Morton overcapacity.
He said the committee discussed Bell Court and Mentelle Park for 20 minutes at a prior meeting.
"There are no apologies to be made," said Stein.
The committee made some other tentative moves on Tuesday, some because of citizen concerns.
The Deerfield area was moved from Morton to Jessie Clark. Summerfield was kept at Liberty instead of being moved to Yates. Greenbriar stayed at Dixie instead of moving to a new planned elementary school. A rural area that currently attends Rosa Parks — but only includes 12 children — was moved to James Lane Allen.
Committee member Astarre Gudino said after the meeting that the committee was wrong in leaving Rosa Parks Elementary at overcapacity because that was stretching its resources.
There are two other schools that are fairly close where students could be reassigned, she said.
In response, Stein said Rosa Parks is only a little overcapacity because of the number of area children who attend private schools.
On another topic Tuesday, Stein said it was likely that the committee would recommend to the school board that a student currently in the Spanish Immersion programs at Liberty, Northern or Cardinal Valley Elementary schools could stay in Spanish Immersion programs through the 12th grade.
The next meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Central Office, where the committee will continue to review elementary school scenarios.