Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Boone schools


'Tis the season to redistrict

map

'Tis the season for basketball, snowmen and obnoxious house over-decoration. For parents in Boone County, add a fourth winter tradition: nail biting over new school boundaries.

It's the Catch-22 of life in Northern Kentucky's fastest-growing area. People plunk down $250,000 to live in new subdivisions with grandiose names like "Antebellum," and they expect to get some guarantee about their children's schooling.

In part, they believe they're buying access to that sparkling new elementary school down the road. But everybody else has the same idea, so pretty soon that school is busting with kids, and some have to be moved.

For four of the last five years, the Boone County School Board has redrawn boundaries to balance enrollment. In a few weeks, it's likely to discuss possible changes for next year.

Schools or parks?

"These farmers are just selling their land, the builders build, and they don't consult the school board to see what the situation is with the schools," says Becky Butler, a parent at Erpenbeck Elementary School.

She recently heard that builders and county officials were discussing the need for more parks.

"I thought, `Parks?' They're creating more of a school problem than a parks problem," Ms. Butler says.

This year, Boone County schools grew by a record 750 children, thanks to new subdivisions that sprang up despite the economic downturn.

Erpenbeck opened four years ago with 750 students. Now it's one of the district's most crowded schools: 904 youngsters in a building meant for 850.

Assistant Superintendent Randy Poe stresses that no decisions have yet been made on which schools - if any - will be redistricted this year.

A committee is studying the matter. Next month, the school board likely will discuss its recommendations and schedule public forums. Any decisions must be made by March.

Move? Or stay put?

Erpenbeck is a likely candidate for change; but, as usual, the board won't have an easy time of it. Two areas - Pleasant Valley Meadows and Farmview - often come up as possibilities for shifting elsewhere.

But kids from those subdivisions already have been moved once in recent years, which gives them a strong argument for staying put, school board Chairman Shawn Carroll says.

He sees the inevitable fuss over redistricting as part of a broader suburban theme: Everything is changing, but not everyone knows it.

For example: "How do you make the public aware that the people in power want to make Pleasant Valley Road five lanes?" Mr. Carroll asks.

Home sellers sometimes add to the problem. On its Web site, one developer gushes that its new subdivision lies within "the popular Ryle school district."

But there's no such thing - only a countywide system that includes Ryle High School, whose future boundaries aren't guaranteed.

Buyers, consider yourself warned.

Contact: kgutierrez@enquirer.com or (859) 578-5584.




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