East Fayette: Some plain talk is needed

Tue, 02/12/2008 - 5:56pm
By: The Citizen

For almost a year, the Fayette County School System has been involved in the process of trying to draw new elementary attendance lines for the 2008-2009 school year. The system told parents and voters that this round of boundary hearings would be different since an expert consultant and parents were involved in the process.

But a funny thing happened on the way to deciding new lines that would incorporate Inman Elementary School that opens this fall.

Instead of just redrawing lines, the committee appointed to adjust the lines was led down a path to close East Fayette Elementary School.

When the committee was formed, there was no mention of closing a school. But during the process, the committee came up with a recommendation — revealed by two assistant superintendents — to close the aging school and shift its students to other schools.

The recommendation drew harsh criticism from the public, and during the December meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education, the board decided to wait and close the school in 2009-2010 after more facts and figures were gathered.

The public went into retreat, and spent the holiday season assuming they knew the makeup of their schools for next fall.

Instead, just as the turkey hangover was wearing off in January, the elected school board decided East Fayette needed to be closed for this fall because the system was looking at a severe financial shortfall from the state, and the system could save up to $850,000 by closing the school.

The public outcry has been predictable, and you would have thought the system would have gotten some input from somebody who knows something about communicating with the public before embarking on this public relations disaster.

Now, parents at Spring Hill are suggesting that all East Fayette students go to Inman, and other affected residents are offering other plans to better tweak the lines.

This week, two public hearings are taking place on the closure of East Fayette. The final one is set for tonight at 7 p.m. at the board office on Stonewall Avenue. We urge residents to show up and offer their opinions on the issue. A recent online poll at TheCitizen.com showed more than 60 percent opposed to the hasty closing.

We agree with our readers and bloggers. Let’s sit back, take a breath and carefully study this situation. During the boundary hearing, board member Janet Smola wondered what the hurry was in trying to adopt a final map.

We echo Smola’s sentiments. Let’s re-evaluate the situation, and if the school needs to be closed, do it in 2009-2010 instead of this year. The voters will feel a lot better if the issue receives careful consideration instead of last-minute maneuvering.

If, on the other hand, the loss of state funds would put an unexpected crunch on system funding, then let’s have some straight talk from the elected board and our well-paid superintendents.

If keeping the school open means a tax increase or a loss of programs or teachers elsewhere, somebody needs to say so — clearly and without the usual school system happy-talk.

The taxpaying public is getting tired of being whipsawed about by last-minute, surprise attendence zone maps and frantic reversals in timetables.

Will some adult at the school system please stand up and give us some plain, honest explanations?

Use that 24-hour self-congratulatory cable channel and all those hundreds of school copy machines to communicate clearly with parents and taxpayers about what is really going on with the largest spender of taxpayer funds in Fayette County.

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