Bryan Station High School, already Lexington’s smallest public high school, lost 385 students after the city’s new $82 million high school opened on Winchester Road. That’s about 20 percent of its student body compared to the start of school last year.
Meanwhile, Henry Clay High School, among the city’s most overcrowded schools for years, remains above capacity.
Addressing the overcrowding situation at Henry Clay had been one of the publicly-stated reasons when district officials made the case in 2013-14 to build a sixth high school, and to redraw school boundaries district-wide.
That new school, Frederick Douglass High, opened last month, and was expected to draw students primarily from Bryan Station and Henry Clay. Here’s what enrollment looked like as of the 10th day of school in August, according to numbers provided by the school district to the Herald-Leader:
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▪ Bryan Station’s enrollment as of day 10 had dropped 385 students compared to the same day last year, from 1,815 students in 2016 to 1,430 students this year. Bryan Station’s building capacity is 1,867 students. The current Bryan Station building opened about 10 years ago. Bryan Station High School Principal James McMillin said that as of Tuesday, student enrollment had slightly increased from the 10th day of school, with Bryan Station having about 350 fewer students than last school year.
▪ A year ago, Henry Clay High School had 2,385 students on the 10th day of school. Its building capacity is 2,133. On the 10th day of school this year, the student population had fallen by 163 students, to a total of 2,222 students. That’s still above the building’s capacity, but down from an enrollment of 2,402 cited by the district in 2014.
▪ The new Frederick Douglass High on Winchester Road had 971 students on the 10th day of school, not including Carter G. Woodson Academy, a special program housed in its own wing of the building. Douglass’ capacity is 1,650, not counting the portion set aside for Woodson. The entire building capacity is 1,800.
Overall, four of Fayette County’s five existing high schools saw their enrollments decrease at the beginning of school this year, compared to a year ago. Only Lafayette High School saw an increase in students. Lafayette now has the highest student enrollment among Lexington’s high schools.
In a December 2013 news release announcing the start of construction on the new high school, then-superintendent Tom Shelton said, “This site is located perfectly to be able to relieve the crowding at Henry Clay High School and accommodate the housing boom in the area of town between Richmond and Winchester Roads.” That sentiment was expressed again in 2014 interviews. Shelton left the district in late 2014, and the school board approved a district-wide redistricting plan about seven months after that.
Fayette County Public Schools district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Tuesday that under the redistricting “grandfathering” policy, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students already attending Henry Clay, Bryan Station and Lafayette who were reassigned to Douglass were allowed to stay at their original school if they wanted.
“When the board approved the new school zones, it was with the understanding that Henry Clay would remain overcrowded. We are waiting to see how the numbers will balance out once grandfathering is no longer a factor,” Deffendall said.
Alan Stein, who chaired the Fayette County Public Schools redistricting committee, said the changes that are going to populate Frederick Douglass are going take place over the next three years.
“I think it’s premature to just make a quick judgment just on numbers the very first year,” Stein said. “The first year doesn’t necessarily reflect the total impact. But I do think it’s fair to say that our hope was, particularly in the case of Henry Clay, that we would be able to have a bigger impact on their overcrowding.
“Clearly that was one of our hopes,” he said. “I think you don’t really evaluate the total impact for at least two years, if not three. The goal and the hope still is that we will have some impact on the Henry Clay population.”
Henry Clay, on Fontaine Road, and Bryan Station, on Eastin Road, are the closest main high schools to Douglass.
Bryan Station Principal James McMillin said the decrease in students there has not caused noticeable change at the school. McMillin said he’s noticed more differences at the school because Bryan Station opened this year with an entire new system of career academies, which are small learning communities. McMillin said the new Academy system has brought positive changes with kids getting more attention.
However, as a direct result of the enrollment decrease, “we do have some smaller class sizes and smaller class sizes are always good for kids,” McMillin said. “You are able to give more students one-on one-help, one-on-one instruction, one-on-one feedback.”
He said Bryan Station High is overstaffed by six teachers, but will get to keep those teachers this school year.
“If any impact is going to hit us, it’s going to happen when we decrease in those teaching positions,” McMillin said.
In terms of the overcrowding, Henry Clay Principal Paul Little said, “I don’t think it affects academic achievement or opportunity for a good education. Our teachers are still working hard every day, we’ve got a viable curriculum and strong instruction.”
“We have a very loving staff that cares about kids, making sure they receive a quality education. So whether we are a little bit overcrowded or not, we are still going to provide the quality education for our students,” Little said.
On the 10th school day from year to year, overall high school enrollment and middle school enrollment — including all of the main schools and special programs — both increased, Deffendall said. But there was a shift among the enrollment numbers in the six main high schools because of redistricting and admissions to magnet and gifted and talented programs, she said
Under the redistricting plan, Bryan Station lost students to Paul Laurence Dunbar and to the new high school. Henry Clay lost students to Tates Creek and the new high school.
Lafayette High School lost students to the new school and Henry Clay, but gained students from Dunbar. Overall, Lafayette increased in enrollment from 2,214 to 2,299 students at the start of this year, according to the district’s number. Lafayette’s building capacity is 2,100.
Dunbar got students from Bryan Station High and gave students to Lafayette, but did not lose any students to the new high school. The year-to-year enrollment comparison showed that Dunbar had 192 fewer students in 2017 than 2016, from 2,251 to 2,059. Its building capacity is 2,033.
Tates Creek High gained and lost students from Henry Clay under the plan. Tates Creek’s enrollment dropped only from 1,835 to 1,830 in the year-to year comparison
Fayette County high schools enrollment
A year-to year enrollment comparison on the 10th school day in 2016 and in 2017 shows that:
- Bryan Station High School dropped from 1,815 to 1,430 students
- Henry Clay dropped from 2,385 to 2,222 students.
- Lafayette High increased from 2,214 to 2,299 students.
- Frederick Douglass High opened in August with 971 students.
- Paul Laurence Dunbar dropped from 2,251 to 2,059.
- Tates Creek dropped from 1,835 to 1,830.