Redistricting approved for area schools for next fall

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE -- He called it the most difficult decision he's had to make while serving on the Bullitt County Public School Board.

And Gary Wooldridge has had to make that decision twice in less than two full terms on the board.

While just one parent spoke on Tuesday, Wooldridge knows that many parents and students may be unhappy with the redistricting plan approved. At the same time, he knows there would be no way to make everyone happy.

Around 1,400 students could be attending new schools next August under the plan, which is over 200 less than were slated for redistricting under the original plan.

"It's something I don't ever want to do again," said Wooldridge. "Nobody is happy."

The latest round of redistricting comes as a new elementary school is to be opened next fall in Mount Washington to alleviate the overcrowding in that area. There was also a need to equalize some of the pupil population numbers at other elementary schools.

The biggest opposition to the revised plan came from residents of The Pointe, where students would go from Freedom Elementary and assigned to Brooks Elementary, which will open a new facility in August.

Another major change included splitting Lakes of Dogwood subdivision. The front section would go to Roby Elementary and the back portion would go to Lebanon Junction Elementary. Also going to Lebanon Junction would be those on Pumpkin Lane to Reichmuth.

Brandy Wardrip, a parent who lives in The Pointe subdivision, again asked the board members to consider changing its plan for youngsters in that area.

"Freedom is an outstanding school," said Wardrip. "My only option is the move."

Although she attended Brooks, Wardrip things have changed over the years.

When moving to the county, Wardrip said school districts were a key part of the decision. She wanted her child to attend Freedom Elementary.

She appreciated the tough decision but Wardrip made a last-ditch plea for the board to reconsider. Going from the top school academically to the lowest school was not something Wardrip wanted to be a part of.

However, her comments about the type of homes around the new Brooks facility and the low test scores seemed to upset superintendent Keith Davis and several board members.

"Brooks has a right to be proud," said Davis. "That was offensive."

Davis said income levels do not equate to academic ability. And talking about the housing or the income levels of an area is something Davis said it not appropriate.

Following the meeting, Davis said the goal of the district has always been to provide a quality education to all students in all schools.

Board member Lorraine McLaughlin felt all the schools were good but Wardrip said the test scores don't indicate that.

"It is about education," said board member Tim Wiseheart.

With high standards and high expectations, Wiseheart said all students can succeed.

He disagreed with any comments from the public about the decision being all about transportation and student numbers.

"We've made some strides here," said Wiseheart. "We're on the right path and we want the best for every school."

Dolores Ashby, who represents a part of the Brooks area, as well as the western portion of the county, said the mindset must be that all children can learn.

"It's not easy," Ashby said of the decision to redistrict. "But we have to do it."

The goal remains to provide every child the opportunity to learn, she added.

McLaughlin said she resented anyone using socio-economic comments and said that the district is in place to provide the best resources and the best educational opportunities to every school in the county.

"We have a duty to provide everyone a quality education," said McLaughlin.

Board chairman Sammy Allen said he is pleased that every school is showing progress in many areas.

"I wish I didn't have to do it," Allen said of redistricting. "It's tough to deal with it."

But he was confident that test scores would continue to improve at all the schools.

Like Allen, it was Wooldridge's second opportunity to listen to opposition to redistricting plans. And it doesn't get any easier.

His children went to Brooks Elementary and have done very well in life. He is confident that Brooks scores will steadily improve in the future.

"It tears you up inside," Wooldridge said of the calls he gets on redistricting. "There is no good answer."

Knowing that redistricting is always be necessary in a growing county, Wooldridge said it is the goal of the district to make sure all schools are provided the resources needed to give students a quality education.

"We're getting there," said Wooldridge. "I would be comfortable with sending my children to any school in the district."

Davis, and the board members, credited the redistricting team for its hard work on presenting a plan and then listening to comments at the first public hearing. A revised plan was then released.

Pat Smith-Darnell, director of pupil personnel, said that Nichols Elementary would be the only elementary or middle school to allow transfers. High schools would not be affected.

For those who would be fifth-graders or eighth-graders next fall, they would be eligible to apply for transfers to remain at their present school but they must provide their own transportation.

Medical transfers are allowed but that must be approved by the district.

The school system will send out notification to affected families early in 2010.

Look on www.pioneernews.net and go to the school system link to view the entire redistricting plan, including maps and street listings of each school.