Most of the comments and concerns at recent school board meetings have been from parents of schools that are to be closed, particularly those from Tyrone and Brooks. At Monday's meeting, the board heard more from the parents of kids who will be switching schools if the new redistricting maps are passed. While the redistricting committee has tried to design districts to get students going to their closest school, many parents questioned whether it would be wiser to try to minimize changes in school and feeder patterns rather than secure small mileage savings.
One contingent in the North Fayette area, from neighborhoods along Brogdon Road and New Hope Road, were particularly vocal in opposition of new high school lines that would take their students out of Fayette County High School and send them to Sandy Creek.
One mother living on Brogdon Road questioned the point of taking students out of Fayette High at all, pointing to its capacity figure of only 78%.
"My question is if you have a high school at 78%, what is the logic behind taking kids out of that and moving them to another school?" the woman asked, then implored the board to "consider the logic of the numbers."
Another mother living on Joanna Dr. worried about the longer drive, saying her usual four minute commute to Fayette High will increase to as much as twenty minutes, making it more difficult to take her kids to and from after school activities. She also pointed out the safety risk for driving age students having to drive over four times as far each way.
Another mother said she lives less than three miles from Fayette High but would have her children redistricted to Sandy Creek. She said she was devastated when she heard about the redistricting because her childrens' church and school serve as a "cocoon" around them. "I want that cocoon, I want to be at Fayette County High School. Leave us in our cocoon, in our community, because that is so important," she said.
A father of a Fayette High student, and representative of the Fayette High School Band boosters, said the organization was very concerned about effect on at least twelve subdivisions in North Fayette, pointing to the extra driving time. He also pointed out that the Fayette High School Band program is exceptional in the area and has its strong feeling of community. He said the new lines would move twenty-four current and nine incoming band students over to Sandy Creek.
In addition to this Fayette High contingent, a father living on the other side Fayetteville on Ebenezer Church Road said the small handful of students on that road wanted to stay in the Whitewater Middle and High School feeder pattern, saying he had specifically chosen that district when he built his home. He also suggested that Mike Smith, who chairs the Redistricting Committee, tried to talk the committee out of keeping those students in the Minter Elementary, Whitewater Middle, Whitewater High feeder pattern.
The final decision on redistricting lines has not been reached, as suggestions and complaints continue to roll in via e-mail and telephone. In all, the current plan (including the closure of four schools) is expected to effect around 2,600 students.
Board member Barry Marchman asked Mike Smith whether parental choice is one of the parameters when deciding on redistricting lines. Smith said that while the committee listens to parental input and discusses it at meetings, they do not use parental input as one of the embedded parameters for setting lines.
Board member Leonard Presberg commented that parental choice can be tricky because "you get e-mails from people living in the same place that want different things. I think you have a decision between distributing the students in a way that makes the most sense or keeping things the same as much as possible. Everyone has different opinions."
Deputy Superintendent Sam Sweat also clarified that parents can apply for specially permission for their students to attend underpopulated schools, and failing that they can join in a lottery held in July.
As these debates over school closures and redistricting roll on, the school board meetings will continue to draw a long line of public comments. Two public hearings are scheduled this month to address school closures, set for Feb. 14 and 25 at 7 p.m. at Sams Auditorium. A final decision on school closures is expected at the March 18 meeting.