Modified redistricting plan approved

Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer (KY) - Friday, March 25, 2011
Author: Dariush Shafa, Messenger-Inquirer

The Daviess County Public Schools Board of Education voted Thursday night to approve a modified redistricting plan that will provide a temporary fix to an overcrowding problem at two schools, while allowing the district more time to develop a solution. 

The DCPS board vote was unanimous to move 80 students from Highland Elementary to Meadow Lands Elementary beginning in the fall semester. Currently, Highland is operating over capacity with 706 students. District policy is to keep elementary schools filled to about 70 to 80 percent of capacity with about 500 students, said Superintendent Tom Shelton.

The revised plan will keep Highland from being overcrowded for the 2011-12 school year, but a permanent solution must still be found and enacted by the board. The original proposal called for 200 students from Highland to be moved to Meadow Lands Elementary, with students from MLES to be redistributed throughout other schools in order to keep balance at the district's middle schools. 

That plan was abandoned, however, after parents raised concerns about the available transportation routes and their safety for students who would have been moved. Shelton said he and his staff heard those concerns, listened and chose to enact a temporary fix so that more time could be devoted to finding a better solution. 

One aspect of the plan that will not change is the move of 80 students from Sorgho Elementary to the new West Louisville Elementary. This move was planned because the old West Louisville school could not handle any more growth. A plan was formed when a number of students were transferred to Sorgho. That school is now at capacity and the new West Louisville Elementary, which can accommodate more growth than the old school, will take back students to even out the balance. 

The plan also adds a grandfathering provision, in that rising fifth-graders from either Sorgho or Highland can be kept at those schools for their fifth-grade year if their parents wish. Parents would agree to provide transportation for the students under such an arrangement. Shelton said since this is a temporary fix, he hopes to see community members get involved in the formulation of a new plan, just as they lent their voices to the forums where their concerns were heard. 

"It's the right path, but it's only a piece of the path," Shelton said. "I hope some people step up and help us get through." 

Board vice chairwoman Dianne Mackey said she is pleased to see the board act the way it has because a more measured plan is what parents have said they want. 

"I'm glad that we are waiting. I think that was a smart move," Mackey said. 

Board chairman Frank Riney said that the board must eventually do something about the overcrowding situation, however, because of the threat to student achievement that exists at an overcrowded school. 

"We want them to have all the success they possibly can," Riney said. 

Board member Mike Clark, a former school principal in the district, agreed. 

"We do not serve the best interest of students if we fill all the spaces in the school to the max or beyond," Clark said.