In Tuesday night’s Nelson County Board of Education meeting, the board discussed potential facility plans ahead of community forums. In addition to the future of facilities, approval for collegiate partnerships for Option 9 for staff was greenlit.
During the meeting at Bloomfield Middle School, the board continued the ongoing conversations around facilities for the Nelson County School District. In last month’s April 18 meeting, Superintendent Wes Bradley presented the board with nine potential options for middle and high schools in the district. Tuesday night, the board cut down those options to three.
“We’ve got three basic options,” Bradley said wrapping up discussion. “Either we redistrict kids to Bloomfield (Middle) and OKH (Old Kentucky Home Middle School), redistrict kids to New Haven and OKH and Bloomfield or redistrict them to the east and west side.”
During the hour-long discussion, the board unanimously decided to axe some of the proposed facility ideas. The two were immediately taken out of play: the current middle school model and the one middle school/one high school model.
“I think the current model, as we all know, isn’t working,” board member Amanda Deaton said. “I mean there are struggles in New Haven. There are struggles in Boston and I think the one thing we all agree on is that we need to do something. I don’t think what we’re doing is benefiting all students.”
The biggest topic of concern for board members was equity, while discussions around school capacity also determined viable paths forward. The discussion around capacity not only focused on the current enrollment, but thinking about growth within NCSD. Board member Damon Jackey said one of his greatest concerns with capacity is allowing for connection with students and not allowing anyone to get left behind.
“Whenever you reach a certain enrollment in a school, there will be those students down at the far end … that are the ones that everybody knows their name because they’re considered a troublemaker,” he said. “And then there’s the one everyone knows because they’re an academic overachiever. …Then there is the huge chunk in the middle, they get lost. That is the majority of those students in those large environments that nobody knows, and they get lost in the shuffle. There’s not someone there that is advocating on their behalf.”
Ahead of the community facility forums, the board also expressed concern with commute times for students, possibilities of new buildings and becoming a school of choice. Board member Tracey Bowling talked about creating schools that would bring students and families into the district.
“I just want to acknowledge that most of these plans can be seen as short-term solutions,” Bowling said. “They would really be difficult for me to see these are long-term goals. We are limiting ourselves.”
Ultimately, the board cut down the options to make for a more manageable presentation for the community ahead of the first of two local forums. Thursday, the district hosted a facilities community forum at Thomas Nelson to allow families and community members to ask questions and give feedback in regards to the ongoing planning. Monday will be the second of the community forums to take place at Nelson County High School at 6:30 p.m.
In other news from the Tuesday night board meeting, the board approved the partnerships between University of the Cumberlands, University of Louisville and Eastern Kentucky University to allow NCSD classified staff to gain their bachelor’s degree and teacher certification in three years. This expedited process is possible through Option 9, which was approved last May on a state level.
NCSD’s Whitney Kline explained these classified staff members would have the opportunity to take online and in-person classes, while being a part of NCSD staff. While pursuing their degree and certification, they would have a mentor/coach in an experienced staff member at the school.
Also, Chief Financial Officer Jessica Rogers presented the board with a tentative budget for the next fiscal year. Rogers said compared to the previous year’s budget they were able to reduce the budget by more than $1 million. She also emphasized that the 2024 fiscal budget will be cushioned by ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund), while 2025 would not meaning they already would be preparing for this issue.