Q&A: Neihof answers questions about new school plan

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By Lisa King

On Thursday night the Shelby County School Board approved a new plan for how it will populate its high schools and middle schools after completion of the Martha Layne Collins Secondary Center being built west of Shelbyville.

There will be two district-wide high schools for grades 8 through 12 -- Shelby County High School and the new Collins High School -- and East and West Middle Schools will house grades 6 and 7.

The plan has received widespread reaction from parents and concerns from at least one school-board member -- Sam Hinkle -- who voted against it.

We asked Shelby County Schools Superintendent James Neihof to answer questions about how the plan came about and what will happen next.

Q. Who came up with the plan?

A. As Superintendent, I evaluated the previous plan of an 8-9 Center and pulled together a Transition Planning Committee for further review. As a result of both those scenarios, I proposed the two 8-12 high schools. This 8-12 concept was originally discussed as one of the considerations in 2005-06. The Local Planning Committee at that time was considering all possible configurations to resolve our capacity issues.  This is discussed in the public forum notes on our website and in the memorandum published in the board packet.


Q: If it was a committee, who are the members?

A: The members of the Transition Planning Committee represented all school levels, parents, educators, etc. Their input was considered, but the final thought process was by the Superintendent with individuals from Central Office.


Q:. How was the plan arrived at? For example, has the design been done somewhere else and then adapted in Shelby County?

A: Based on student projections/current enrollment and the expansion of the actual building to house 1,500 students,  rather than the previous 1,200 students, were two of the driving forces to change from 8-9 to an 8-12 plan. Other components were a downtown in economy and the need to be frugal in spending tax dollars since the 8-12 plan delays having to build new facilities longer than the 8-9 plan.


Q: Who will attend the two high schools? In other words, what areas of the county will the students come from? What are the geographic boundaries?

A: This has not been finalized in terms of specific attendance boundaries. However, we have boundaries in place for East Middle and West Middle, which could provide guidance in determining the new high school lineups.


Q: Who were primary supporters of this concept?

A: The Superintendent, members of Cabinet, members of Transition Planning Committee, four of the five school board members, and many members from the public forum.


Q: How will the population of the high school take place? Will there be a

phase-in (8th and 9th grades the first year and an additional one each

year), or will it be an automatic switchover?

A: Automatic switchover after much communication with parents, students, staff and community.


Q: How will the plan be communicated to families?

A: The Sentinel-News, Shelby County Life magazine, district Web site, handouts sent home in student backpacks and other formats that could be decided as we get closer to making those decisions.


Q: Has any other public school district in Kentucky ever done a 5-year high


A: A number of independent school districts operate in multiyear grade levels. Eminence, for example, houses grades 5-12. Shelbyville had 7-12 in one building.


Q: Does this have any impact on the original financial plan?

A: The district facility plan currently calls for a third middle school in 2014-15. This new organizational plan will allow a new Local Planning Committee that will convene fall of 2009 to amend that construction, thus saving the community's tax dollars.