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Plan shifts 1,000 students between schools

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By John Foster

Three years ago when a new elementary school was built within sight of their subdivisions, the residents of Shelburn Oaks and Arbor Ridge couldn’t have been more excited. Resident Joe Zaubi said his oldest son and other students had been crammed into the overcrowded Camden Station Elementary and in some cases, bussed to a gymnasium at the Oldham County Arts Center, so the prospect of a shiny new Kenwood Station Elementary School seemed great. When Kenwood Station principal Phillip Moore visited the subdivisions to fundraise, families gladly gave “time, talent and treasure,” Zaubi said. They donated books to stock the library, school supplies to help out teachers and a tent for the cross-country team. “All the time believing we were making a long-term investment,” he said. Now, if the new redistricting plan for the school district goes unchanged, next year Zaubi’s youngest son will go back to Camden Station. He and his neighbors say it is an unwelcome transition – a second move in four years. Zaubi was one of about 70 parents who attended the Oldham County Board of Education meeting Monday night and one of 13 to express dissent about a proposed redistricting plan. Michael Williams, director of pupil personnel, presented a plan to shift about 1,000 elementary students – about 22 percent of the elementary population – to a different school for 2008-09. This is a necessity, he said, in order to fill Locust Grove Elementary and balance enrollment district-wide. He also said there was an effort to move as few students as possible while balancing enrollment. According to the plan, district boundaries change for every elementary school in the county with the exception of Harmony and Goshen elementaries. The new district boundaries will relieve overcrowding at Kenwood Station, La Grange, Buckner and Centerfield, Williams said. Bus routes were a secondary consideration in the redistricting process as was trying to keep any one school — La Grange in particular — from having a disproportionate number of students on free and reduced lunch, Williams said. Superintendent Paul Upchurch said he realizes moving children between schools is painful for families, but it is necessary to prevent classes from growing to 35 or 40 students. “We have to move students about in these 10 elementary schools,” he said, “in order to maintain the quality of education we have always known.” The majority of parents at the meeting came from two groups of subdivisions — Arbor Ridge and Shelburn Oaks residents who don’t want their children moving to Camden Station Elementary, and Park Lake and Camden Manor residents who don’t want their children to switch from Camden Station to Buckner Elementary. There were also a couple parents from the Greenwood Common subdivision in La Grange that will go to Liberty. Camden Manor residents expressed concern about driving three miles to go to school instead of one, and the negative effects of uprooting their children from the school they know. Jennifer Simmonds said she and her husband specifically bought a house in Camden Manor so their children could go to Camden Station, South Oldham Middle and South Oldham High, just like their mother did. Williams said he understands her point, but unfortunately the reality is that the county is growing which means schools get overcrowded, new schools have to be built and district lines have to be redrawn. He said he thinks the current boundaries should hold for at least the next 4-5 years. Donna Allen has children with special needs who are thriving at Camden Station. She asked the board to consider the effect changing schools could have on children with special needs, who thrive in a stable environment. She referred to numbers Michael Williams presented and asked the board to remember what those numbers mean. “Each of those numbers represents a child,” she said. Lynne Jackson would rather her child stay at Centerfield Elementary than go to the new Locust Grove. “It’s a matter of community,” she said. ...”Wouldn’t it be nice if they could graduate with people they went to elementary school with?” Zaubi said he is somewhat concerned that constant redistricting doesn’t give children the chance to make lasting friendships, but he concedes that kids are resilient and they’ll adjust, he said. “We’ll make the best of it,” Zaubi said. He’s gonna get educated.” Upchurch said board members will consider parents’ concerns. They will vote on the redistricting plan at next month’s board meeting.

E-mail us about this story at:jfoster@oldhamera.com.