Education

School official: New elementary, middle schools possible in about four years along Richmond Road corridor

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

A new elementary school and a new middle school could be built along Lexington's rapidly growing Richmond Road corridor in about four years, Fayette County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Mary Wright said Thursday.

At a redistricting committee meeting at Central Office during which school assignment zones were discussed, Wright said district officials wanted to buy property in the Richmond Road area. She said she could not release additional details.

Those two new schools, which could be built in 2018 or 2019, would be in addition to a new high school that will be built by 2017 on Winchester Road, and two new elementary schools set to open in fall 2016.

The two elementary schools scheduled to open in 2016 are on Georgetown Road and on Passage Mound Way, in a rapidly developing residential area east of Interstate 75 in Lexington.

Redistricting committee chairman Alan Stein said that knowing that two Richmond Road-area schools would likely be built helps alleviate concerns about schools in that area that are currently overcrowded. Overcrowding is one of the problems that the redistricting committee is trying to solve.

The more than 20-member redistricting committee, which is expected to give the school board a proposal by April 1, came to some conclusions on where elementary school assignment boundaries should be drawn. The members still have to consider those decisions in the context of how elementary schools feed into middle schools and how middle schools feed into high schools, but Stein said the conclusions included trying to have neighborhood schools, and reducing both driving times and overcrowding. Stein said he would not know how many students will be affected by the proposed scenario until a demographics company staff member provides a rendering and data.

The map "touches on all the guiding principles that the school board asked us to take a look at," Stein said. (See current maps and feeder patterns.)

The changes made for elementary schools reduce concentrations of poverty in most schools, Stein said, "but not to a great degree."

Stein said it would be inaccurate to say that the committee had made "wholesale changes and everything is much better in terms of economic diversity."

"We did the best that we could with the circumstances that we have," Stein said. "It comes nowhere close to balancing all the schools."

The school district has about five schools with very few free and reduced-price lunch students, and about 26 schools where the majority of students receive free and reduced-price lunch.

Stein said that people living in the east end of downtown with high concentrations of poverty asked the committee not to disperse their children just to achieve socioeconomic balance.

Specific neighborhoods that will be affected by redistricting were not identified by name as the committee worked Thursday. References were made only to numbered study areas and schools.

Several hundred of the children who will be moved are populating new schools, Stein said.

Stein said in many cases, the committee reduced the distance people had to travel to schools. Fewer neighborhoods will be split into two or more school assignment zones, he said.

"They did a great job," parent Mike Hall said, referring to the committee's tentative decisions. Hall, who lives in Palomar — which is assigned to Rosa Parks Elementary — said he was glad children would not be bused 4 or 5 miles farther than necessary.

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