The current effort to redraw school attendance boundaries in Lexington might not achieve socioeconomic balance at Bryan Station High School, Alan Stein, Fayette County Public Schools' redistricting committee chairman, said Thursday.
Bryan Station is Lexington's only high school designated by the state as a persistently low-achieving or priority school. It also has more students who are eligible for free and reduced-priced lunches than other high schools, a situation that some on the redistricting committee had hoped to fix.
But Stein said Thursday at a meeting of the committee that because of where students live in Lexington and their socioeconomic status, it might not be possible to bring more balance to the school without busing, which carries high transportation costs.
"Redistricting may not answer this question," Stein said.
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Stein said one answer might be to place a new magnet program at Bryan Station to draw more students. Both school board members Doug Barnett, who is on the redistricting committee, and Melissa Bacon, who attended the meeting, said they would be open to that.
Bill Farmer, a redistricting committee member and president of the United Way of the Bluegrass, said in order to reduce the number of students at Bryan Station who receive free and reduced-price lunches, students would either have to be bused, which is costly, or additional funding would have to be provided to Bryan Station.
"At some point we are going to have to pay," Farmer said.
State officials said this year in a management audit report that the district has not done enough to help academic achievement at Bryan Station. But the school has implemented new programs, and district officials say Bryan Station has recently made improvements.
Redistricting committee member James Brown, who said his daughter was a senior at Bryan Station, said he wanted to make sure that the committee was exploring all alternatives before determining that the redistricting effort might not result in more socioeconomic balance.
"If it's something we can't change, or it's too drastic as far as cost, I understand, but I just wanted to make sure we looked at it," he said.
Attendance zone changes will be implemented when two new elementary schools open in 2016 — one on Georgetown Road and the other off Polo Club Boulevard — and a new high school opens in 2017. Several scenarios have been discussed for redrawing attendance boundaries.
The committee is months from making a final recommendation.
Though Stein had previously expressed concern that the committee's pace was slowing Lexington's real estate market, he said Thursday that the committee was making progress, and he said he hoped it could be ahead of its April target in presenting a plan to the school board. The next committee meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at the district's Central Office, 701 East Main Street.
Among the people at Thursday's meeting were parents from the Stuart Hall neighborhood in southeast Lexington, off Hays Boulevard, who were concerned by two possible scenarios.
One would split students in the neighborhood between the proposed new high school and Henry Clay. The other would send some neighborhood students to Bryan Station.
Resident Vicky Walters said socioeconomic balance was an important goal, but "It seems to us as though the driving factor is free and reduced lunch, and not much emphasis is being placed on ... neighborhood school concepts."