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Fayette BoE to set goals for school closures, redistricting at Aug. 6 called meeting

Most people who keep up with the happenings of the Fayette County School System know that the closure of up to five schools is currently under at least theoretical consideration. But there are a number of parameters that will be determined before the Fayette County Board of Education tackles the issue.

To that end, a called meeting will be held on Aug. 6 to discuss those parameters and give direction to the committee that will be charged with doing the research that will help the board reach a decision on the closure issue.

Superintendent Jeff Bearden at the school board’s July 16 meeting recommended the Aug. 6 workshop that should include include several areas for consideration.

One of those would have board members determining if the committee should focus on only how redistricting would affect the schools slated for potential closure or if the committee should approach redistricting from a systemwide perspective.

Another recommended topic for the August meeting concerns the direction the committee should take on issues such as the length of time children should spend on buses, school capacities, maintaining neighborhood integrity and feeder patterns from elementary schools to high schools.

Bearden also asked that the committee be given a list of goals.

The redistricting committee is expected to include individuals having expressed an interest in the topic. Membership of the committee may not be finalized until after the Aug. 6 meeting.

Bearden in April had proposed to close Fayette Middle, Hood Avenue Primary and Fayetteville Intermediate and open the new but nearly empty Rivers Elementary as a way to help offset the school system that is facing significant decreasing revenues from plummeting local tax revenues and falling student enrollment that generates approximately $4,000 per student from state sources.

Each of the schools initially proposed for closure are located in Fayetteville, and each has a majority of black students.

The discussion among board members at the May 2 workshop ended with Bearden being asked to develop four optional closure plans for consideration. Those include:

1) Bearden’s original proposal for closing Fayette Middle, Hood Avenue Primary and Fayetteville Intermediate and opening Rivers;

2) Bearden’s proposal and closing Tyrone Elementary;

3) Bearden’s proposal and closing Brooks Elementary; or

4) Bearden’s proposal and closing both Tyrone and Brooks. Both Tyrone and Brooks are majority white schools.

A meeting to discuss the board’s preference on the optional plans was expected to come at a workshop in July or August. The school board at that time was expected to make a decision that would provide the school boundary redistricting committee with the information needed to begin its work.

Bearden said public hearings will also be held to solicit public input. The entire process is expected to be completed in December in time for the implementation that will take effect in the 2013-2014 school year.

It is noteworthy that the three schools originally proposed for closure by Bearden are all located in Fayetteville and all are Title 1 schools. Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended (ESEA) provides financial assistance to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education.

The city was also the home of the former East Fayette Elementary School, closed in 2008 when Inman Elementary School opened several miles south of the city. The opening of Inman requires students to be bused more than four miles out of town to their new school.

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