If every public high school student in Fayette County went to the school closest to his or her home, Tates Creek High School would be overcrowded by hundreds and Henry Clay would have half as many students as it does now, according to data discussed Thursday at a meeting on redrawing attendance boundaries.
Redrawing the boundaries based on proximity alone is "probably not practical, and it's really not what most families would want," the county school district's chief operating officer, Mary Wright, said after the meeting. "There are lots of other things that we need to take into consideration, and I think the board understood that when it gave us the guiding principles."
In addition to having students go to neighborhood schools, guiding principles adopted by the school board include having economically balanced schools; being mindful of patterns of elementary schools that feed into middle schools, which feed into high schools; taking into account districtwide programs; and considering the projected fall 2018 enrollment.
The committee of about 30 members redrawing attendance zones met at the district's main offices Thursday. The committee is working toward drafting a proposal scheduled to go to the school board in early 2015. The changes will go into effect when two new elementary schools open in 2016 — on Georgetown Road and off Polo Club Boulevard — and a new high school opens in 2017 on Winchester Road.
Committee members reviewed federal guidelines for avoiding racial isolation at schools.
Also, Bob Joice, the district's attendance analyst, explained one of the reasons that some neighborhoods in Lexington are not assigned to the nearest schools. The Stonewall neighborhood is closest to Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, but students who live there are assigned to Lafayette High School because of a feeder pattern: Students in the neighborhood go to Jessie Clark Middle School, and Jessie Clark students go to Lafayette, Joice said.
The Cardinal Valley neighborhood is closer to Lafayette, but students are assigned to Dunbar. In large part, that is because of economic diversity. If only the students who live closest went to Dunbar, the percentage of students receiving free and reduced price lunches would be very low, he said.
Committee members were given a demonstration of demographic software that they will be using. With the software, they will know specifics about students who live on a given street, including their ethnicity and economic status and whether they have a disability.
The committee will examine attendance boundaries for high schools first.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Tom Shelton said that the committee would not move special programs, such as Tates Creek High's International Baccalaureate Diploma Porgramme, out of the schools they are currently in.