Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Don't shuffle kids, schools told

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        COVINGTON — Parents and students at a Monday public hearing sent Covington school officials a message: Don't treat the children like pawns on a chessboard to achieve diverse enrollments in city elementary schools.

        “I'm comfortable here,” said Amanda Fuston, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at First District Elementary who might have to move to Glenn O. Swing Elementary next year. “If I go to a different school, I won't be used to it. It screws me up.”

        About 60 attended Monday's meeting at First District, the first of two the district scheduled to determine public opinion. The second is at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Latonia Elementary School.

        Superintendent Jack Moreland said the school board would make its decision at its June 7 meeting.

        Mr. Moreland added two new alignment scenarios to the five he presented last week. One calls for a slight change in Latonia Elementary's boundaries, and the other would turn Ninth District into an all-sixth-grade building, make Latonia and John G. Carlisle into fourth- and fifth-grade facilities, with the other four schools as kindergarten-third grade feeder buildings.

        School leaders want the minority population at all of the city's elementary schools to be at least 10 percent, as they struggle to integrate a school district in a segregated city.

        Many parents who spoke — both African-American and white — said the children are the victims.

        “I don't understand why we have to redistrict because of quotas,” said Lorie Whalin, an African-American who has a son at First District. “When you pick a district, you look at what's going to be easiest for your child.”

        Connie William, who is white, has a daughter at First District and told Mr. Moreland the same thing.

        “I do not want my kid moved,” Ms. Williams said. “And I will fight you all the way.”

        One scenario calls for moving a district advanced-placement program from Latonia to First District, while another would make First District the home for advanced-placement students in grades 4-12.

        Alex Weldon, who has two daughters at Latonia, likes the first plan because of the potential for working with the Kenton County Public Library across the street from First District. She thinks the second plan is a poor idea.

        “That kind of isolation of students throughout their academic career would be to their detriment,” Ms. Weldon said.

        About 27 percent of Covington's 4,500 students are minorities — the most racially diverse school district in Northern Kentucky. However, more than half of the students at one school — First District Elementary — are black, while another school — Latonia Elementary — is nearly all white.

        Covington Independent Schools is also redrawing its elementary boundary lines to create a better mix of students economically and to more evenly divide enrollment among all the schools.

        District leaders want to create economic balance so all schools have access to the same extra dollars given to schools with high numbers of poor students. The district also wants to relieve crowding at Latonia and Glenn O. Swing, which have more than 500 students each.

        Mr. Moreland wants enrollment to be between 350 and 450 at every elementary school to make the buildings more manageable.

        District officials also plan to reopen Fourth District Elementary on Scott Street, a neighborhood school in a predominantly black area that was closed in 1998 despite strong parental opposition. All seven proposals include reopening the school.

        If people can't attend Wednesday's meeting, the proposals can be reviewed at the district's main offices at 25 E. Seventh St.

A look at Covington school proposals

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