Elementary and middle school students will stay at their current schools for the rest of this academic year, said Letcher Schools Supt. Anna Craft.
Craft said rumors have been spreading through the county since the Letcher County Board of Education in July authorized the creation of seven teams made up of parents, teachers, school administrators, board members and community members to look at elementary students attending classes in separate schools from middle school students.
“ There have been rumors out there it was going to happen at Christmas,” said Craft. “That is not true. The earliest it would happen if — and that is a big capital if — the board decided that would be next school year.”
Craft said the teams were created to examine the positives and negatives of having some schools made up of kindergarten through fifth- grade students and some schools made up of sixth-, seventhand eighth-grade students after the Kentucky Department of Education approved the district facilities plan during the summer.
A group of about 20 people consisting of representatives from each school in the district worked last school year on the facilities plan, which gives a detailed description of the condition of each school building and identifies the needs of each school.
“As part of that facilities plan, they list what the grade configurations are at every campus and we have a multitude,” said Craft.
Arlie Boggs, Beckham Bates, Cowan, Fleming-Neon, Letcher and Martha Jane Potter elementary schools all consist of kindergarten through eighth-grade students. West Whitesburg Elementary School has preschool through fifthgrade students. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students are enrolled at Whitesburg Middle School. Ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students all attend Letcher County Central High School.
“ That committee suggested that the board look at putting all of them into either P-5s, 6-8s and one 9-12,” said Craft. “I feel like what the facilities committee suggested confirms what I have felt over the last couple of years (about) what we needed to do and the direction we needed to go in.”
Craft said when the school board looked over the district facilities plan it wanted to look further at the facilities committee’s recommendations.
“They turned to me and said could you get some people together and look at what would be involved, what the feasibility is, and the advantages and disadvantages would be to go into that configuration countywide,” said Craft.
The teams are each made up of 10 members and are broken down into categories including transportation, curriculum, personnel and staffing, transition, facilities and technology, communication and extracurricular activities.
In December the teams will present the school board with a data package containing their conclusions.
“They may look at it and say we don’t think this is a good idea,” said Craft. “They may say this is a good idea, but we want to wait a year or two to start it. You’ve got several options. Do it next school year. Do it a few years down the road or don’t do it at all.”
Craft said one thing is for certain: “It in no way will happen this school year. I can assure you of that.”
“ The board will have the ultimate decision,” she added. “ The committees are getting data together. All of this is just a study, a proposal.”
Craft said it has not been determined yet which schools would be designated as middle schools and which ones would be elementary schools if changes were made. She did say that Fleming-Neon and Letcher elementary schools have features such as athletic fields that would make them better suited as middle schools.
She said she thinks reorganizing the district school structure is the best option for students.
“I feel like to be able to offer the best education to our children we really need to look at separating the younger from the older kids,” said Craft.
Craft said it puts a hardship on faculty and staff to have eighth graders in the same building with kindergarteners or preschool children.
“ I have been reading about it. Academically, it is the best thing we can do for our children,” she said. “I love the kids. I love the staff and I want to do what is right. As long as I sit in this chair I will do what is best for students first.”