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Committee discusses major changes to county schools

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

A committee that will decide what building many McCracken County elementary and middle school students will call home in the upcoming years met to discuss options and hear public feedback.

The district Local Planning Committee (LPC), made up of 20 school officials, parents and community members, met Tuesday night. The committee discussed the district's facilities plan, which was last amended during the 2007-2008 school year. Afterward, the gathering was opened up to public comment.

Heath Cartwright, assistant superintendent and Superintendent Nancy Waldrop's designee on the committee, presented four options for student changes in Reidland and two for the Heath area. He said the choices are based on the district's need to use available building space gained from the consolidation of the three high schools.

He said each of the four options in the Reidland area includes the closure of Farley Elementary and use of only two buildings due to an enrollment decline in the upcoming school year. Enrollment for Farley Elementary, Reidland Elementary and Reidland Middle School fell by 277 students in the past five years. Reidland Middle School may not be part of the plan as it is being considered for district use and possible movement of the board office.

The first two plans include preschool to third-grade remaining at Reidland Elementary School, with the fourth- through eighth-graders at the former Reidland High School building. The plan would have fourth- and fifth-graders on one hallway and sixth through eighth graders in a different hallway.

A similar plan includes the same movement of grades but would put the fourth- and fifth-graders in a more separate hallway in the Reidland Middle building.

The other two choices include the movement of third through eighth grades to the former high school, with the similar structural options. According to Waldrop, the building allows for the two age groups to be separated with different entrances, libraries, schedules to begin and end classes, lunch times, and district school administrations.

The options for Heath realignment include Heath Middle School remaining closed due to renovations, keeping fourth-grade students at Concord and Heath Elementary School ,and moving fifth-grade to the middle school, which is in the former high school building, to ease the growth and increasing enrollment at Concord Elementary. The other idea is to forgo any changes until next year to focus on changes to the Reidland system.

Several dozen parents and community members attended the meeting and those who spoke, about 15 total, voiced displeasure with the options, concern with putting different age groups in close proximity and the amount of time given before a final decision has to be made.

No action was taken at the meeting. The options were outlined to open discussion between the council and the public, according to committee and board member Rick Straub. The board will hold another public forum at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the school board office before making a decision and sending the proposal to the Kentucky Department of Education for approval.

Contact Kathleen Fox, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or follow @kathleendfox on Twitter.

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