The superintendent and other district administrators spent the evening listening to community members’ concerns, recommendations, and questions regarding the opening of Boonesborough Elementary School. Eastern Kentucky University’s Karen Russell in the auditorium at Madison Central High School moderated the community forum. Superintendent Elmer Thomas gave the group a brief explanation about the need for the new elementary school and the choice for its location.
“Our district is a growing district,” Thomas said. “We are adding an average of around 70 kids each year. Now, 70 kids may not sound like many and certainly we can accommodate them. But if you think about how quickly 10 years goes by, before we know it we’ve added 700 kids and we are in real need.”
Thomas explained that the district exhausted all other options for absorbing growth in the northern part of Madison County when it renovated White Hall, Kit Carson, and Daniel Boone elementary schools recently.
Thomas also explained that the district is hoping that opening the new elementary school will also lead to the creation of more neighborhood schools in the district. Examples given were students that live on Brandy Lane in Richmond go to Glenn Marshall Elementary despite the street being located across the street from White Hall Elementary. He also cited students living in Richmond city limits currently attend Kirksville Elementary.
“Those current zones just don’t make sense and we really want to create more natural zones for our students and their families,” Thomas said. “We want to focus on creating neighborhood zones because it is what is best for kids.”
The nearly 30 people in attendance were asked to provide feedback and pose their questions in three main areas: school size and population, school zone, and transportation.
Some of the highlights from each category are:
Category 1: Size and Population
- Will preschool and kindergarten be located at Boonesborough Elementary or will those students be housed in other buildings as they are now?
- Superintendent Thomas confirmed that the district is anticipating having kindergarten at Boonesborough Elementary. Madison Kindergarten Academy would continue to house students from White Hall, Daniel Boone, Glenn Marshall, Kit Carson, and Kirksville elementary schools. Preschool is not done by zones and it is not clear just yet if Boonesborough Elementary will house preschool students.
- Will students entering 5th grade next school year have to change schools?
- Assistant Superintendent Randy Neeley explained that students entering the 5th grade will be given the option to remain in the school they are currently in. Siblings of those students would be given the same option.
- How many students are expected to be enrolled at Boonesborough Elementary when it opens?
- Neeley explained that the district is anticipating between 300 and 325 students when the school opens next fall, adding that the district intends to start with a smaller population so there is plenty of room for future growth.
- How is the population determined?
- Assistant Superintendent David Gilliam said that balancing populations requires the district to look at several factors: the first consideration is size and balancing size with other elementary school; second is balancing demographics and making schools as even demographically as they can be; and finally the district hopes to maintain the neighborhood school feel.
Category 2: School Zones
- One parent shared the opinion that White Hall Elementary parents will likely move because they don’t want to be rezoned.
- How many schools will be affected by the rezoning?
- Superintendent Thomas explained that when you do create a neighborhood school, you do think about which areas are best for that building. In order to create those natural zones, Kit Carson, White Hall, Kirksville, Glenn Marshall, and Daniel Boone elementary schools zones will all be affected. The district’s goal is to keep elementary populations in those schools to between 400 and 450 students.
- Will middle schools be affected?
- Middle school zones will likely change, according to Neeley. Elementary feeder patterns will have to change in order to avoid one school being significantly larger than others. The district will be looking at what makes most sense for the middle schools as well, Neeley said.
- Is there a time frame for the zoning plan?
- Rezoning will be happening pretty quickly so the district can present a plan to the public and to the Board in a reasonable amount of time for families and the district to plan, Neeley said.
Category 3: Transportation
- How will the district deal with the interstate interchange and the traffic lights?
- The district is well aware of the traffic issues with Exit 95, the superintendent assured those in attendance. He said the district is hopeful that the building of the new school will actually in the progress that needs to be made at the interchange for everyone’s safety. Plans to increase efficiency in that area have been in place for a while and the district is hopeful that the state will push forward with those plans.
- Why was a traffic study not done before buying property?
- When the district was in the process of searching for property, we took into account all of the potential safety hazards prior to making a purchase, Thomas said. He added that the district will be doing a required traffic study prior to the opening of the school next fall.
- Were the traffic issues at Traditions Subdivision taken into account when building the new school?
- Neeley said the district has made efforts to keep traffic off of Boonesborough Road when the school opens. The drop off/pick up lane will hold as many as 200 vehicles so that cars won’t be lining up on the side of the road.
- Is the district planning to building more schools in that area?
- Superintendent Thomas said there are not plans to purchase any further property in that area.
- Will we have enough people to drive buses and gets kids to and from school?
- Superintendent Thomas said the district is exploring many options to make sure that transportation is efficient and feels there will not be any issues.
Other Questions Asked:
- Will there be a staggered school start time? Earlier or later?
- Neeley said that those kind of logistical questions will be answered as the district
- Will there be extended school opportunities at Boonesborough Elementary?
- Superintendent Thomas said he was sure Principal Shelly Boulden will make sure students at Boonesborough Elementary have as many wonderful education opportunities as students in our other schools.
- Build an entrance and exit at Boonesborough Elementary.
- Use Old Boonesborough Loop.
- Start times should be looked at and consider staggered times to help alleviate traffic issues.
- Look at length of bus routes before setting zones.
In closing, Superintendent Thomas made the following statement: “Thank you for coming. We’ve got a wonderful opportunity in Madison County to educate our kids the best way possible. Boonesborough Elementary is an extension of that and we are excited about the future. There is a lot of work ahead. Zoning is not easy. We are trying to create a neighborhood feel for our kids and give our schools some breathing room as we continue to grow. It is hard to imagine 20 years from now, but if we aren’t trying then we aren’t doing justice for our kids.”