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June 2012
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Hearing set to halt school sale

BY KATHLEEN FOX kfox@paducahsun.com

A temporary injunction is being sought to prevent the June 18 auction of Cuba Elementary School in Graves County.

The injunction was sought by a group of residents who sued April 1 the Graves County Board of Education in Franklin Circuit Court, claiming the board did not follow proper procedures in deciding to close the school.

The plaintiffs include Graves County residents Josh Cherry, William Bell, Richard Jackson and Larry Dale Shelby and are represented by Hurt, Crosbie & May of Lexington.

Districts are required, according to state statute, to develop a local facilities plan every four years but can amend it through two advertised local planning committee meetings, a public hearing and approval from the Kentucky Department of Education.

The district's planning committee met in February and voted to recommend modifications that would permit the closure. The lawsuit states that the panel didn't review the plan or the district's overall status during the meeting. The lawsuit also alleges the board used a "finding process," defined as a relatively minor change that doesn't substantially affect the district's need assessment and only impacts one facility, to shift the status of Cuba Elementary from permanent to transitional.

The group filed an emergency motion dated Friday for a temporary injunction to stop the auction, set for 3:30 p.m. June 18 at the school.

The document alleges that the injunction would maintain the status quo and wouldn't bring excess burden or decrease the school's monetary value because the building is closed for the summer. The school board voted March 20 to declare the facility surplus property with a closure date of June 30.

The notice referenced a hearing set for Monday in Franklin Circuit Court, which didn't occur due to the lack of notice for all parties involved, according to school board attorney David Hargrove. He said the board anticipates the court's hearing all motions, including the temporary injunction, on June 11.

The board had previously filed a motion to dismiss the individual board members as parties in the case for that date. Hargrove said that motion is standard practice as the board functions as one body. He said the board agreed to delay moving property other than personal possessions of staff members from inside the building until after the June 11 hearing.

The school board voted to close Cuba Elementary School by a 4-1 vote in December following continued declining enrollment of less than 200 students, increasing facility repair needs and the November decision of residents to strike down a board-proposed school tax increase of 18 percent, from 37.5 cents to 44.4 cents on real property per $100 of property valuation. Students would instead attend Wingo or Sedalia elementary schools and the closure is projected to save the district about $375,000 per year, according to Superintendent Kim Harrison.

The next hearing date is scheduled for 10 a.m. on June 11 in Frankfort.

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

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