Fayette County Public Schools redistricting committee releases tentative rezoning maps

Although the Fayette County Public Schools redistricting committee is not expected to give the school board a final plan until April, committee chairman Alan Stein has released a tentative draft of elementary school zones.

Stein also released draft maps for middle and high school zones so the public could comment, but he cautioned that those maps are even more preliminary.

Enlarged map: See potential middle, high school changes | Enlarged map: See possible elementary school attendance zone changes

The elementary school scenario would move 2,692 students who now are in kindergarten through third grade. Changes are expected to take effect in fall 2016 when two new elementary schools are expected to open. Of those students, 731 are being assigned to one of the two new schools, which will be east of Interstate 75 and on Georgetown Road.

"Please allow me to caution everyone that these elementary school boundaries are in no way final," Stein said Tuesday night in an email to parents.

"All of our work is still in draft form, and I would anticipate that there will be changes made before we prepare a recommendation for the Fayette County Board of Education."

In an interview, Stein said: "I would suggest that given the number of comments that we got from the public ... and our own committee's conversation, that there are some areas that we think we can do even better on. There will be some areas that we'll revisit."

The changes in the tentative elementary scenario involve many areas of Lexington.

They include moving the Meadows-Loudon neighborhood from Yates to Northern, the Liberty Road corridor within New Circle Road from Northern to Yates, Gleneagles from Yates to the new school east of I-75, part of the River Park neighborhood from Southern to Millcreek and the Waterford neighborhood from Southern Elementary to Veterans Park.

The tentative scenario also would move students in the Chilesburg, Walnut Creek and Stuart Hall neighborhoods from Breckinridge to Athens-Chilesburg Elementary, a move for which several neighbors had lobbied.

Changes in elementary school zones were prompted by a desire to eliminate overcrowding and portable classrooms "that cost us so much money," Stein said during the interview.

"We want to improve class sizes, particularly in the lower-income areas, because we believe that that's one way to bridge the achievement gap" between low-income students and others, he said. The committee is trying not to send students in the same neighborhood to different elementary schools.

In addition, "we have tried as best we can to send as many kids as possible to the nearest school, but what gets in the way of that, particularly in the new and bigger neighborhoods, is that the schools only have so much capacity," he said.

On Tuesday, committee members used tentative elementary school attendance areas as a guidepost for developing middle and high school boundaries. They compared draft elementary zones to some early work they had done on middle schools and made adjustments to middle school zones to account for school capacity, neighborhood continuity and feeder patterns. Stein said they looked at 70 scenarios on Tuesday alone.

By the 2019-20 school year, the district is projected to have more students than available seats in middle schools. School officials have announced plans to build a middle school in the Richmond Road corridor. But even with that school, there will not be enough capacity, Stein said.

He said the committee tried to draw zones that would keep schools at 105 percent to 115 percent full, knowing there will be movement among schools that will help balance the population as students move for special programs and magnet schools.

"Capacity numbers are pretty close to where we want them in middle schools and high schools," Stein said.

He said the committee considered the socioeconomic balance in each middle school, but the percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch at individual schools ranges from 25 percent to 83 percent in the latest middle school scenario.

Stein said the committee will look at redistricting high school boundaries from the standpoint of socioeconomics at the its next meeting, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday in Conference Room C at the school district office, 701 East Main Street.

The committee has looked at potential high school attendance boundaries by using the draft elementary and middle school lines to maintain a feeder pattern into high schools. Committee members intentionally have left room for growth at Bryan Station High School and a new high school, expected to open off Winchester Road in fall 2017, Stein said.

District officials are asking people to send anonymous comments about various scenarios, which ultimately are posted on the district website. Redistricting committee members say they are taking the comments into consideration.

Those comments have included concerns about the suggested redistricting of the Seven Parks neighborhood from Glendover Elementary/Morton Middle to Picadome/Lexington Traditional Middle School. Another commenter asked that the Masterson Station neighborhood not be redistricted from Sandersville Elementary and Leestown Middle.

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