By Josh Akeman
The reality of the school closures has set in and, with the passing of new redistricting lines on Monday, Fayette County parents and students can begin to plan for which school they will be attending. At Monday night's meeting, the Board of Education passed updated maps that had been finalized that day.
The meeting was fairly sparsely attended, which may have been due to the severe winds, rain, and hail that hit the area around the time most people would have been leaving to get to Sams Auditorium in Fayetteville. A few people spoke in the public comment section, asking the board to reconsider some lines. One woman asked the board to postpone the vote since some of the changes to the new maps had been finalized and published that day.
Though the public attendance was light, every indication by board members and staff have been that parents have taken a heavy interest in the redistricting process, mostly communicating their concerns by e-mail. Mike Satterfield, director of facility services, has served as the point man for explaining the redistricting decisions that have been made. He was challenged by board members Barry Marchman and Mary Kay-Bacallao on the reasoning behind some of the rezoning decisions.
Marchman asked in particular about concerns he had received from parents of Elementary school students at Peeples and Braelinn, where a decent amount of student movement will occur.
Marchman said he "didn't fully get" the reasoning behind swapping some of those students around rather than minimizing student disruption. Satterfield explained that the decision was made based on proximity to schools as well as considerations of possible future growth.
"Basically we started off with a concept that we're trying to put everybody near their closest school, even though it doesn't always work out. That's one of the reasons we chose to send High Grove and Whitewatercreek and New Haven [subdivisions] to Braelinn because they're approxmately 1.5 miles closer to Braelinn than they are to Peeples. Also if you go to the end of Redwine Rd.,there are several subdivisions that you can see Peeples from the yards, but those kids were going back up the road to Braelinn. So you basically have parents and buses passing eachother [going to and from the schools]. Although it's about a mile and a half, not a huge distance, it's very inefficient," Satterfield said.
He also addressed the capacity considerations that went along with the decision, saying that allowing the three subdivisions in question two stay at Peeples would mean an extra 215-220 students. Adding in the 50 to 60 that would be allowed to go there by law because their parents teach in the complex, Satterfield said the school's population would approach 900, putting it over capacity and leaving no room for growth that is expected to eventually come to the area.
Satterfield said the only way to allow those subdivisions to remain at Peeples would be to have other subdivisions, which are closer to Peeples, to go to Braelinn.
"That's why we've stuck with that recommendation," Satterfield said.
Satterfield also addressed some of the changes that had been made to the elementary school map. In the previous version of the map, Cleveland Elementary was set to feed into four different middle schools, something the redistricting committee was asked to resolve.
"We have a number of other elementaries that feed in to two, but there is no other ones that fed into three or four, so we took a hard look at how we could do that, we were trying to line up our feeder patterns better than we had," Satterfield said.
To help correct the problem, he said some students from the Weldon Road were sent back to Crabapple, rather than being shifted to Cleveland as had been planned. Additionally, a number of subdivisions on the east side of Highway 54 were shifted from Cleveland Elementary to Huddleston. Those included Longboat, Carriage Chase, and the Shiloh mobile home park.
The new maps were passed by a 4-1 vote, with Kay-Bacallao voting no. Marchman held reservations. concerned that some mistakes may have been made that will need to be fixed, but voted yes.
For parents interested in attaining special permission to attend a different school, the deadline is March 29. So far, there have been almost 330 special permissions requested, as compared to 140 last year. Most of the board, as well as interim superintendent Dan Colwell, said they supported being lenient in granting special permissions as long as the capacity allows for it.