Lexington Considering Elementary School Changes

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Lexington Public Schools officials say low scores on federal standardized tests are part of the reason they're planning on making some big changes.

The district is talking about transforming three of their elementary schools into grade level campuses, so instead of each building being K-5, one would be K-1, one 2-3, and one 4-5.

But first they're talking with parents about how that might work.

Raquel Najera says her kids have all gone to Morton Elementary School, just a block from their home, so she came to the district's first parent information meeting with doubts.

"I thought, 'I'm not going to be moving my kids to another school because all of my kids have been at Morton,'" she says.

District officials say poor Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) scores are forcing them to spend the federal funds they receive for impoverished students on extra education services to boost those scores.

Assistant Superintendent Barry McFarland says they believe dividing their buildings by grades instead of neighborhoods will improve learning and get Lexington students on a better path to success.

"It would bring the same grades together so we'd have that collaborative piece for teachers and working together, and it also resets that AYP because it's a new format for our schools - they would start back at the beginning," he says.

The switch would mean LPS needs four less teachers, but because of retirement and transfers, LPS says no one would be laid off.

But they say more kids would need transportation since they wouldn't be going to the closest school.

"We've done the math on that and the savings from the retirees, the positions that we would absorb, completely offset the cost of adding the additional transportation routes in town," says Superintendent Dr. John Hackonson.

The district says they must make changes to start meeting the No Child Left Behind benchmarks and feel that grade level campuses are the best solution.

"We don't have a Plan B, or Plan C, or anything like that, so we want to make this as strong as possible," says McFarland. "That's really why we're coming to these community presentations and getting feedback from teachers and from the community and parents to make this as strong as possible."

Though some parents spoke out against the proposal, a few like Najera say the pros outweigh the cons.

"I didn't really agree with what they were talking about, but now that they explained it a little bit better I think whatever is best for our kids, I'm willing to do," she says.

The district will have another information meeting on Tuesday, March 19 from 8:30-9:30 a.m. and from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Lexington Public Library.

McFarland says they're hoping to have a school board decision in the next few weeks so if the plan is approved they can work toward implementing it this fall.