Some people who came to a public hearing Thursday night to argue against their homes being reassigned to a different Lexington school left smiling. Others left choking back tears.
The smiles came after Fayette County Schools officials tabled indefinitely a rezoning committee proposal to split up the students in the Pinnacle neighborhood in the Tates Creek Road area, which would have moved an estimated 77 to 100 children from the high performing Veterans Park Elementary School to Lansdowne and Southern elementary schools .
Pupil Personnel Director Steve Hill said that decision was reached because about 40 fewer children showed up at the start of the school year at the overcrowded Veterans Park elementary than anticipated, not because parents launched a campaign against the proposal in recent weeks.
District officials will continue to monitor the enrollment at Veterans Park, “rather than being too hasty and redistricting an area that may not need it,” Hill said.
The tears came from some parents in the Chilesburg area who don’t want their children moved from the high-performing Athens-Chilesburg Elementary to the yet unnamed elementary that will open in 2019.
After hearing the Chilesburg parents’ concerns, Hill said the rezoning committee of school staff, parents and community members charged with populating the new school will look at other options. A final vote from the Fayette school board will be put off until at least October.
In the Veterans Park Elementary situation, neighbors in the Pinnacle neighborhood lobbied the school district not to rezone children.
Pinnacle Homeowners Association President Mark Stringer said “it’s one of the hottest neighborhoods “ in Lexington, partly because of Veterans Park Elementary.
“We actually held a special meeting at our clubhouse... we researched a lot of data. There’s been a lot of hours that went into this and a lot of thought,” said Stringer who was pleased that his neighborhood will be left alone for now.
Parents said they did not have concerns about the quality of other Fayette County schools where their children might be assigned, but they don’t want their kids separated from other neighborhood children for school. Hill said Veterans Park , built for 650 kids, is still overcrowded at 759. But district officials originally had anticipated 805.
In addition to tabling the redistricting proposal, 42 children previously assigned to Veterans Park who had been attending Southern Elementary because of overcrowding were invited back to Veterans Park this school year.
Hill said some residents had asked why children from other neighborhoods who lived closer to other schools had been assigned to Veterans Park.
“You want to make sure schools have diversity,” Hill said . “Our kids need to interact with kids who are not like themselves.”
Neighbors including Jimmy Webb think they could be redistricted again.
“It’s nice to buy a little bit of time,” Webb said. “ “Ultimately it still sounds like there’s a little bit of uncertainty for future years.”
Board member Daryl Love who was at the hearing said the decision not to move the Pinnacle children in this round of redistricting was the right one based on the current enrollment at Veterans Park.
“There was no change that was really needed right now,” Love said.
Filling Lexington’s next elementary school with students was another matter. Hill told parents that Athens-Chilesburg was overcrowded.
“People are upset about having the neighborhood split in general, they are concerned about property values,” said Alan Weinstein who was representing the Chilesburg Homeowners Association.
Jennifer Kennedy lives one mile away from Athens-Chilesburg Elementary but 2.7 miles away from the new school. Her voice was breaking with emotion when the hearing was over.
“We bought our house in Chilesburg because of the school and the sense of community. We’re going to be separated from the rest of Chilesburg and our son won’t be able to able to attend the neighborhood school,” Kennedy said.
Cindy Newkirk became tearful when she spoke to the crowd. She told the Herald-Leader that she lived 1.2 miles from Athens- Chilesburg Elementary and could walk her son to school on a continuous sidewalk. Newkirk said she was being redistricted to the new school which is 2 1/2 miles away and will require crossing Richmond Road, a major artery.
Susan Voglesong, the former president of the Chilesburg homeowners association, was among the residents who said they didn’t get the notices that district officials said they sent about the hearing.
Hill told parents that once a new school opens, students who have been reassigned are happy . “That first day of school when those children show up and have a teacher that loves on them and a school that welcomes them, those fears usually diminish,” Hill said.
But being reassigned to a new state-of-the-art school was not a big draw for many at the meeting.
“We have to split up our community and that’s not what we want,” Voglesong said.” I hope they take another look at the lines that have been drawn.”