Minors Lane Elementary supporters to JCPS: Don't close our school
A suggestion by one JCPS board member for the district to consider closing Minors Lane Elementary in an effort to save money is drawing some criticism from teachers and community members.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A suggestion by one Jefferson County Board of Education member for the district to consider closing Minors Lane Elementary in an effort to save money is drawing some criticism from the school's teachers and community members.
Chris Brady, along with board members Chuck Haddaway, Steph Horne and Linda Duncan, have each indicated they will not support a Jefferson County Public Schools proposal that would increase class sizes and potentially eliminate assistant principals from some of the district's elementary schools.
Instead, Brady offered a possible solution of closing both Frost Middle School (which the district turned into a sixth grade academy in 2014-15) and Minors Lane Elementary.
In an email he sent Wednesday to colleagues and constituents in order to give JCPS "administration time to put together an alternate proposal if this one isn’t approved," Brady wrote:
First, examine the many programs JCPS funds and determine if they’re effective. In the past, the Board has received reports that attendance of some programs has been sparse and/or effectiveness questionable considering the investment. Apparently, the administration has done this with the extended learning program (without informing the Board). We should continue to look at other programs as well.
Second, close Frost Middle School. This has nothing to do with the staff or students at that school, but everything to do with location, location, location. This shouldn’t be anything new, I’ve expressed my concerns about the environmental conditions around this school and its impact on learning and health (see attached email and link below). We spend a good deal of funds transporting students to this building since there are really no students living to the south and west of the school from which to pull. It is far from capacity and these students can be absorbed by other schools. My guess is a savings of about $1 million per year in operating cost.
Third, close Minors Lane Elementary for some of the same reasons as Frost. The neighborhood that once surrounded this school is gone and the location is now zoned for industrial use. Additionally, there is speculation that this area being considered as an alternate location of the recently withdrawn bio-digester project. My guess is a savings of about $500K per year in operating cost.
By Thursday, parents and community members and teachers took to social media to protest Brady's suggestion.
"My granddaughter goes to Minors Lane and we are very happy with this school," said Mary Ellen Nicholson. "Contrary to Mr. Brady's belief, there is a neighborhood close to this school. My granddaughter lives there. She walks to school almost every day."
Meagon Ford, a kindergarten teacher at Minors Lane, sent this statement to WDRB. It is signed by Ford and three other teachers -- Breanya Hogue, Ken Downs and Kim Pena. You can read their full statement here.
While we agree that a reduction in staff would be detrimental to the learning of all students in Jefferson County, we are outraged that he would suggest the closing of Minors Lane Elementary School as a cost-saving alternative. First and foremost, Minors Lane is a neighborhood school. Brady stated that the neighborhood that once surrounded this school is gone. Although there are industrial warehouses near our school, we serve over 250 students who live directly across the street.
On Twitter, the hashtags #WeAreMinorsLane started appearing and the school's Twitter account started tweeting out information about the school:
Meanwhile, the district's new spokeswoman told WDRB on Friday that Superintendent Donna Hargens is meeting with the district's principals in small groups to discuss the 2016-17 budget.
"Dr. Hargens is having meetings with small groups of principals as the budget process continues, so we can all work together to serve the needs of JCPS students," said Allison Martin, who took over as chief of communications and community relations on Thursday.
"Building a budget is an ongoing process and we look forward to working with board members, principals and the community to ensure that their concerns are addressed and that the district's priorities, and most importantly, the needs of students, are met," Martin said.
Ford said she and other teachers tried to send letters home in their students' backpacks on Friday, informing parents that this suggestion to close Minors Lane was being entertained by board members.
"The letter had already been passed out to all students and ready to go home," Ford said. "Around 3:40 p.m. we were asked by the district to collect them from all students and that they were not allowed to go home."
In response to the letter being sent home, Martin said "any official communication to parents (must be) authored or approved by the principal."
The school's principal, Zac Eckels, could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
However, Duncan, whose district includes Minors Lane, said there is no conversation on the table concerning the closing of Minors Lane or any other school."
Duncan said she is aware of Brady's email, saying it's "just a suggestion on his part."
"We are all trying to think about how we can save in certain areas and spend on kids in other areas, based on our new strategic plan," Duncan said.
Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.
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