Education

Some in Lexington's Bell Court area unhappy with proposed Fayette schools redistricting plan

Lexington Traditional Magnet School, top, and Morton Middle School
Lexington Traditional Magnet School, top, and Morton Middle School Lexington Herald-Leader

Some residents of Lexington's Bell Court neighborhood are asking the Fayette County Public Schools' redistricting committee to reconsider its proposal to move their neighborhood to Lexington Traditional Magnet School from Morton Middle School.

The committee already has agreed to keep nearby neighborhoods at Morton after initially assigning them to LTMS.

After at least 200 people asked the committee to reconsider its plan to move the Fairway and Kenwick neighborhoods to LTMS, the committee decided to keep Fairway and Kenwick at Morton.

But last week, members of the committee indicated their recommendation to reassign the Bell Court and Mentelle Park neighborhoods to LTMS was unlikely to change.

Morton Middle is classified as distinguished/progressing in the state's accountability system, and LTMS is classified as needs improvement/progressing.

Julia Burnett is encouraging her neighbors in the Bell Court area to let the committee know they are concerned.

Students from Fairway, Kenwick, Bell Court and Mentelle Park all attend Ashland Elementary School and would continue to do so under the proposed county-wide redistricting.

Breaking up the Ashland students when they go to middle school — with some going to Morton and some to LTMS — is incongruent with the committee's goal of establishing "feeder patterns," said Burnett.

Under the proposal, students from the Bell Court and Mentelle Park areas are the only ones who would start at Ashland and move to LTMS, before going to Henry Clay High School, she said.

"I honestly do not care if Ashland feeds into LTMS or Morton, but let's keep peer groups together," Burnett said in an email to neighbors. "There is safety and security in familiarity of relationships, rather than starting over socially when you are age 11, 12 and 13 — only to leave most of your middle school peers to start over again in high school."

Also, the change is discordant with the primary goals of the redistricting committee, which include socioeconomic balance, she said.

"If they are looking for real and lasting change — they need impact," she wrote. "And impact will happen when the entirety of Ashland Elementary infiltrates LTMS. Dividing up a feeder school and depending on the smaller contingent (from) Bell Court/Mentelle to raise the socioeconomic level of LTMS simply does not make sense."

If all the Ashland students are not assigned to LTMS, she said, the committee should "add our dozen Bell Court kids back to Morton with their elementary peer group. If Morton has room for Fairway/Kenwick, then I'm sure they can find room for a few more."

Beth McGee, another Bell Court area resident, said, "I think it's really frustrating that they are choosing to split" the students who attend Ashland between the two middle schools.

Lewis Gardner, president of the Mentelle Neighborhood Association, said that if homes in his area are moved from Morton to LTMS, he thinks the idea won't be well received. But Gardner said he hadn't heard from neighbors.

The redistricting committee is redrawing school attendance boundaries in preparation for a new high school set to open in 2017 and two new elementary schools in 2016. The committee hopes to give the school board a recommendation by April.

In response to the concerns from Bell Court neighbors, committee chairman Alan Stein said they were similar to the thousands of responses the committee has gotten from neighborhoods all over town about various schools.

Stein said the committee considered the request, "but it wasn't in the overall best interest" of the district.

He said keeping Fairway at Morton adhered to the guiding principles such as capacity and socioeconomic balance.

"We're not favoring one neighborhood over another," he said.

Stein said the committee would review specific feeder pattern issues at a future meeting.

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