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Redistricting is tough one for members

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My Views

By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - Without asking any of them, I know the answer.

The most difficult thing school boards in Bullitt County will have to vote upon is redistricting plans.

In some districts, the tough decision is what to do when enrollment stagnates or declines and you have to make personnel cuts.

In Bullitt County, that is not a problem.

Even when building has slowed to a crawl, the district welcomes over 300 more students this year.

Instead of worrying about declining school enrollment, local officials have to project growth and decide how to lower numbers in some facilities that are nearing capacity.

The saga in Bullitt County begins.

The first plan was unveiled in August and the major complaint came from students being shipped out of Overdale Elementary to Maryville Elementary. This would reverse the redistricting move made several years prior.

At the initial public hearing, a big crowd showed up with those living in Hunters Hollow II, off Hillview Boulevard, occupying the most seats.

Their concerns centered about youngsters who have endured a year of construction and the hopes of going to a new school. Now, they would be sent to Maryville Elementary.

A few whispers about the open classroom setting were made. Academic comparisons were few.

Another set of parents wished to remain at Pleasant Grove Elementary. Due to the new elementary school in Mount Washington, a domino effect has occurred. Youngsters in Old Mill, Mount Washington, Pleasant Grove and Roby Elementary schools were affected.

Listening to comments and reading on-line responses, the redistricting committee went back to work.

The members scrapped the hopes of having two elementary schools feed into one middle school and two middle schools feed into a single high school.

They recommended leaving Overdale at Overdale and finding another way to transfer over 150 students from Freedom Elementary.

There you have the makings of a second plan.

In the second plan, the big change was the youngsters living in The Pointe subdivision would be moved to Brooks Elementary. Youngsters in the Lakes of Dogwood subdivision would be split between Lebanon Junction Elementary and Roby Elementary.

So, at the second public hearing, the majority of the crowd came from The Pointe.

The bases of the concerns were two-fold - parents didn’t feel they were notified especially since the plan changed in mid-stream and they were very concerned about the academic quality of Brooks.

Their concerns were clearly stated - several even said they would sell their homes and relocate.

The board is expected to get the final redistricting plan at its Oct. 20 meeting at 7 p.m. at the central office. The public is invited.

A couple of things struck me as I listened to both public hearings.

First, from a selfish point, several mentioned not knowing about the hearings or the redistricting plan.

Readers of The Pioneer News would have seen front-page articles on both plans in advance of the hearings.

Even if you don’t subscribe, the stories were on-line at www.pioneernews.net.

We even sent out e-mail blasts that day to remind people of the meeting. Feel free to go to the website and sign up for the blasts and the headline previews.

Second, parents are very passionate about their children.

Not one comment, no matter how personal it may have sounded, was done to hurt any feelings. All the comments were made from the heart.

Third, there are no easy answers. Most of those making comments offered few solutions. The bottom line is that schools are designed to educate a certain number of students.

The days of simply putting large number of kids in a classroom is over. State standards set cap sizes on classes in the interest of student learning.

And you simply can’t continue to build onto schools, especially at the elementary level.

The most concerning point of all the discussions has been inequity in the academic performances of the schools. This is a concern both of the parents and the school officials.

There is no doubt an effort to make sure all schools perform at the highest level. That has been the mission of all schools since test results were reached. No one wants to be at the bottom of any list.

The parents who argued the Freedom vs. Brooks academic index card were correct. Their present school has higher test scores than what could be their future school.

If they are concerned about the future, change can happen quickly.

Just a few years ago, Lebanon Junction Elementary and Bernheim Middle were hosting meetings relating to failures in meeting goals of the No Child Left Behind act.

This year, both schools are selecting. They met all the federal goals. In some in-house scoring projections, Lebanon Junction finished at the top of the elementary schools and Bernheim was second among middle schools.

Impressive growth over a short period of time.

The academic climate has changed in the school district over the past few years. And some of the initiatives put into place even before that are starting to pay off. Plus, the massive construction boom of the past 10 years is finally starting to slow. There will be no schools under construction once next year begins classes in August.

Teachers are more receptive to the constant assessment of students and administrators are making sure the data is being put to good use.

The district overall jumped the state rankings in comparisons to other districts.

And the work is being done with little funding. It is woeful to see the district be near the bottom in Kentucky for per pupil spending. But that is something that really can’t be changed - without big tax hikes and then surviving a voter recall.

The district must work with the resources available. And the redistricting committee must work with the goals it must attain.

Good teachers with good direction will provide top-notch student learning. No matter the school, it can happen.

I don’t have a clue how the final redistricting plan will look. Board members may not be happy in October and may ask for more changes.

The one thing for sure is that the goal of the district ensures that every child can, and will, learn. We have to have the confidence that it can happen in every school.

And, if it can’t, then the superintendent and the board must do something about it.