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Add Inman to school cut list

There will be a community redistricting committee to address the potential closure of several Fayette County schools beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.

But the consensus at the Monday meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education that led to the particulars of the redistricting committee’s assignment saw the addition of one more option, a lengthy back-and-forth discussion and accusations by Chairman Leonard Presberg that “some on the board” were trying to undermine the redistricting efforts.

Board member Bob Todd near the beginning of the discussion on the redistricting committee’s goals and parameters said the four options previously discussed did not include consideration of an option he had suggested in the spring, one that included the potential closure of Inman Elementary School south of Fayetteville.

The four options agreed on by consensus included closures originally suggested by Superintendent Jeff Bearden and three other options identified in the spring. Those include:

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

2. Bearden’s proposal plus closing Tyrone Elementary;

3. Bearden’s proposal plus closing Brooks Elementary; or

4. Bearden’s proposal plus closing both Tyrone and Brooks.

Todd’s suggestion Monday night included a fifth option that would look at closing Inman and Tyrone, closing Fayette Middle, consolidating Hood Primary and Fayetteville Intermediate and leaving Rivers as it is now, with only a portion of the special eduction students populating the school.

During the initial discussion that resulted in the fifth option involving Inman and other components board member Terri Smith suggested that “for the sake of argument” the board could create a fifth option.

The discussion had Smith and Janet Smola opposing the fifth option and Key and Todd in favor. Though no vote was taken, Presberg said that to move the work of the redistricting committee forward he would agree to include the fifth option, adding that doing so was not fair to the committee.

The discussion on the proposal for a fifth option had already continued for some time, going back and forth between the two sides of the issue. While not mentioning their names, Presberg on several occasions suggested that “some members of the board” were working to undermine the work with which the redistricting committee is being charged.

Smola during the discussion suggested that the school closure topic be put off until January when the new board will be seated.

Bearden commented that the idea of the fifth option should have been dealt with in the spring.

“I’m surprised that we’re going back and looking at a fifth option,” Bearden said.

Not mentioned by Bearden or any on the board Monday night was the statement made by Todd during the spring when the other options were being discussed. It was at one of those meetings that Todd made the point of suggesting that the closure of Inman be considered as one of the options. Yet his request went unheeded with virtually no discussion, while the discussion on the other options were far-reaching.

Bearden prior to the inclusion of the fifth option Monday night said he would be meeting with the potential committee members on Thursday and would likely announce their names on Friday. That timeline might be affected by the decision to include the fifth option which involved Inman Elementary and the need to secure committee participation from those involved with that potential closure.

For all the discussion that preceded it, the board agreed to the five parameters for the committee to pursue. Those included:

• The redistricting committee will serve as a voluntary advisory committee and will work with the superintendent and his staff on creating four options for board consideration.

• Look at the entire system during the redistricting process and make any recommended changes that the committee believes will lead to greater efficiencies.

• Work to protect the integrity of neighborhoods/subdivisions.

• Use the “Cluster” model in attempt to develop logical feeder patterns.

• Keep in mind the distance students may have to travel to get to and from school.

As for the school redistricting process, it is expected to include a total of four public hearings. Though the situation might change with the inclusion of the fifth option, the first hearing is currently set to be held at Fayette County High School on Aug. 30.

The meeting will begin with Bearden providing an overview of the purpose of the school closures and redistricting process. Bearden will also give a report on school system finances and the school enrollment history.

The hearing will be structured so that citizens will sit at tables with committee members or school system staff, who will document suggestions and input and answer questions. The subsequent input gathered will be posted on the school system’s website and will be provided at the second public hearing.

Further into the redistricting process and once the maps are finalized, two additional public hearings will be conducted prior to the vote by the board, expected to occur in December. Bearden did note that the new board in January can make changes to the boundaries if they choose to do so.

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