Education

Fayette public schools redistricting committee focuses on alleviating overcrowding

Fayette County Public Schools central offices at 701 East Main Street, Lexington.
Fayette County Public Schools central offices at 701 East Main Street, Lexington. Herald-Leader

The committee redrawing public-school attendance boundaries in Lexington is now focusing on alleviating overcrowding in schools, said Alan Stein, chairman of the committee.

"We really are using capacities to guide us through this process," especially at the middle school level, Stein said Thursday.

"The whole point of redistricting is to be able to give a quality education to all of our kids in a similar environment. That starts with capacity," he said. "If you polled this committee, I think they would tell you that not having overcrowded schools is a paramount concern."

At a meeting Thursday packed with anxious parents, the redistricting committee tested scenarios that included reassigning homes that had been assigned to the overcrowded E.J. Hayes Middle School to Crawford Middle School; homes that had been assigned to Tates Creek and Southern middle schools to Morton Middle School; and homes that had been assigned to Leestown and Bryan Station middle schools to Winburn Middle School. The scenarios were little more than test exercises, and much is in flux. The committee is still months away from making a recommendation to the school board in Lexington's first major redistricting effort in a decade.

Stein said that while the conversation at Thursday's meeting centered on capacity at middle schools, that doesn't mean that the committee has dropped the goal of socioeconomic balance or any of the other priorities that the school board has given the redistricting committee.

But Stein repeated what he said last week: There is an overriding belief on the committee that redistricting can only partly achieve socioeconomic balance in Fayette schools.

The principles adopted by the school board include having students go to neighborhood schools; 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 pattern of elementary schools feeding into middle schools, which feed into high schools, emerged Thursday as a lower priority for the committee.

Meanwhile, Stein discussed the new middle school which is on the district's facilities plan, possibly to be built in the next five to seven years. Stein said he thought the redistricting committee might recommend to the board that the new middle school be built in southeast Lexington in the area around Crawford and Hayes, or around Leestown Road. Housing growth is anticipated in both of those areas.

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.

Thursday night's meeting perhaps had the most spectators to date. Parent Tony Foltz said his Chilesburg neighborhood was currently assigned to nearby Hayes Middle School, and one preliminary scenario had the neighborhood being reassigned to Crawford, which is farther away.

"We want the kids in the neighborhood to go to the neighborhood school," Foltz said.

Foltz, who said he had attended almost all the redistricting committee meetings, said he thought having so many parents at Thursday's meeting focused the committee more on neighborhood schools instead of balancing the number of students who receive free and reduced-price lunches.

The next committee meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at the district's Central Office, 701 East Main Street.

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