Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Lakota switches students; parents seethe



By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

LIBERTY TOWNSHIP - About 119 children from four Liberty Township neighborhoods will move temporarily from Independence to VanGorden Elementary School this fall to ease overcrowding in Lakota schools.

The move has several of the affected families upset.

"Our biggest concern is, are we going to be bouncing back and forth?" asked Linda Classen. "Why were we as parents and taxpayers not notified before the final decision was made?"

According to a plan announced Monday by Superintendent Kathleen Klink, the area that will move to VanGorden includes Allen Estates, Hawthorne Hills, the Woods of Panther Run and Panther Run Estates subdivisions.

Maud-Hughes Road borders the area on the west, Kyles Station to the north and Millikin Road to the south.

The move is being made to ease overcrowding at Independence Elementary, which has an enrollment of 917 students, said Principal Greg Finke. Without moving the students, enrollment was projected to top 1,000 students in a building designed for 850, Finke said.

"It seemed to make sense to keep neighborhoods together," Klink said.

Moving the students - and one teacher - to VanGorden will put next year's enrollment close to 875 depending on how many new students enroll, Finke said.

"We'll be in a similar position next year," Finke said.

The decision was made after Finke, Klink and others discussed the situation with the district's transportation department and after reviewing several options.

"My gut reaction is, shame on you," said parent Alecia Devich. "You're not thinking of the kids' best interest...You're thinking of the levy in the fall."

Klink said she is reviewing attendance areas for the entire district because Lakota West High School is over capacity and Lakota East will be in the same spot a year from now.

Administrators are putting together a plan for the 2005-2006 school year for both elementary and high school students.

Additional portable classrooms cannot be added because of the cost and space, Klink said.

An open house specifically for the affected families has been set for 6:30 p.m. May 24 at VanGorden.

"There is no good way to do this," said Joan Powell, president of the Lakota Board of Education. "We have more students than we have spaces...

"This is not our first choice. Other options cost a lot of money that we don't have."

E-mail suek@infionline.net




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