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June 2012
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Committee hopes students will return to Cuba School

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

The four plaintiffs in the case against the Graves County Board of Education and its decision to close Cuba Elementary School are hoping students won't be sent to other schools when classes start in less than a month.

Josh Cherry, Richard Jackson, William Bell and Larry Dale Shelby all live in the area Cuba Elementary School draws its students from.

The four filed a suit against the board alleging it mishandled the closure process, and following a June 27 hearing, saw success in a temporary injunction against the district's planned auction of the school and its property until Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd makes a final decision in the case.

But the plaintiffs are hoping they can not only halt the sale of the school, but see children returning to Cuba for the upcoming school year.

"We haven't given up on (the students) being transferred," Jackson said.

Following the judge's July 1 decision to halt the school auction, the district announced it still plans to redirect students and staff to other schools.

The school has reported about 150 students attend Cuba and they will be redirected to two nearby schools, Wingo and Sedalia.

The Graves County Board of Education met for a special meeting Wednesday night to discuss the case in closed session and to consider establishing a litigation committee "to manage reporting and strategy."

Harrison said following the meeting that the board decided to establish a committee to deal with the litigation.

The committee consists of two attorneys, two board members and Graves County Schools Superintendent Kim Harrison.

Kelly Whitaker, the sole Graves County Board of Education member who voted against closing Cuba, said she wasn't impressed with the formation of a committee with only two board members. She was not selected for the committee.

"I think it's kind of odd that we have five board members that are elected to represent the county and now we've narrowed it down to two that know what's going on," she said. "Personally, I feel like there's some isolationism going on."

A small school

The Graves County Board of Education voted 4-1 during a December meeting to close Cuba Elementary School. The board cited years of declining enrollment and aging facilities as reasons to close the school.

But according to the plaintiffs, the district has not fairly reported the number of students who attend Cuba. While the board has reported about 150 students attend Cuba, Bell said there are about 180 including pre-kindergarten students, who will also be transferred to other schools. The school, which was built in 1982, can hold about 250, according to Harrison.

Enrollment has declined over the past seven to eight years, Harrison said. She said seven years ago it had about 200 students, not including pre-schoolers.

Jackson said the plaintiffs have offered to sit down with the board and discuss what can be done with the school, but has not received any response.

They hope the judge halts the redirection of students to other schools before school recommences next month. Classes are set to begin on Aug. 6.

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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