Ky. Voices: New Clark County schools plan wrong for students

Terri L. Knight of Winchester has sons in the sixth and seventh grades in Clark County Schools.
Terri L. Knight of Winchester has sons in the sixth and seventh grades in Clark County Schools.

At a recent Clark County school Board meeting, Kay Kennedy of the Kentucky Department of Education and Robert Tarvin, of the state's Schools Facilities Construction Commission, used intimidation and bullying to force us to accept the facilities plan approved several years ago.

This plan does not have the support of the majority of parents in the school system.

Their remarks were rude and condescending. We felt as though we were being reprimanded. They were not there to hear what we had to say.

Kennedy's attitude was that if KDE comes to a board meeting, it's not going to be pretty. It was as if we didn't stand a chance in implementing a new plan and the original plan would go ahead on schedule whether we liked it or not. She added that reconvening the local planning committee rarely works.

In the plan, approved by the school board last week, some of the county's best schools are to be closed, including Pilot View, ranked third among 733 schools in the state; Trapp, a blue ribbon school at 16th; and Providence at 21st.

When these schools close, some children who live in the county will be riding the bus for three hours a day. Also the plan calls for a merger of the two middle schools into the old high school. Having 1,300 middle school students in the old building while renovations are underway is both a security and a health hazard. The asbestos and mold problems have not been properly addressed. In order to attract new businesses to the area, we need to have successful and safe schools. This can also adversely affect property values in Clark County.

While employed by an engineering firm, I've worked with several municipalities, attorneys and project managers. There were often last-minute changes or improvements to projects. There was even scrapping of a project, if it was not in the best interest of all involved or if the majority were against it.

Working on the premise that we live in a democracy and not a dictatorship, we know that there are several regulations the state has in place to amend facilities plans already approved. One is a drop in enrollment and another is an unforeseen event. We feel that we have met both these requirements.

Many parents have signed a petition stating they will pull their children out of the Clark County Public Schools if the plan moves ahead as proposed. Two board members were challenged in last year's election and were defeated over the issue of the merger. The majority of the parents are overwhelmingly against this, creating an unforeseen event.

An area of concern with the merger is the renovation of the high school while kids are in attendance. The new high school was built because the old building was 50 years old and did not address the needs of the students.

To make it usable and safe for middle schoolers, renovations are a must. But is it cost-effective to renovate an old building?

I asked Tarvin about our concerns regarding asbestos with the children present. His response was "it happens all the time." Really? It happens all the time? Is the Environmental Protection Agency comfortable with children around an area being cleared of asbestos?

Working for a company in the past that dealt with the EPA, I know that they have guidelines regarding proper handing of asbestos. Having children around asbestos is not one of them.

Clark County residents are good, hardworking folks who are proud of our schools. We also know what is best for our children. Closing high performing smaller schools is not in their best interest.

We do understand we have to go through the local planning committee process but we are asking for a chance at a new facilities plan because this is what the overwhelming majority of the community wants.

At issue

: May 23 Herald-Leader article, "Clark schools told to comply; State tells board of education to implement facilities plan or lose some funding"

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