Southside forum focuses on road, redistricting

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Neihof: Student distribution process has not yet begun

By Todd Martin

Fewer than a dozen people turned out Tuesday for the first public workshop on for the new Southside Elementary project.

The workshop, held in Southside's current gym, was designed to get information from the public on the design, layout and features of the new building, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.

However, only three people spoke, and the crowd mostly was filled with administration and staff.

And it wasn't the design, features or new amenities that garnered the most interest either. It was the work toward a new access road and whether it would be a public road or not, and the act of redistricting that must occur when the new building opens and increases to 600 students.

"Redistricting will be done to form a true feeder system," said Kerry Whitehouse, the assistant superintendent for operations. "With the addition of this school we will have six six-hundred-student elementary schools, so three will feed each middle school and each middle school will then feed an individual high school."

As of now, two elementary schools, Painted Stone and Clear Creek, are split schools, where students that would eventually end up at East and West middle schools go to elementary school together.

Janice Harris wanted to know if the redistricting process had begun.

"Is it in place now, and if so, what's the plan?" she asked.

Superintendent James Neihof, who sat in the crowd, explained that redistricting has not started, and that a growth committee first would be assembled from among parents, teachers, district administrators and community leaders before any changes are made.

"This will probably be the biggest redistricting plan we've gone through in my 10 years with the district," he said. "It will probably affect almost everyone in the district, but we will convene a growth committee so there is plenty of input. I can assure you, one of our goals will be to make as few changes as possible, but we have to plan for the long term."

Harris, who lives on Kentucky Street, also wanted to know about the new access road, and where it would possibly empty on to her street.

"How much additional traffic will it cause in the community?" she asked.

Whitehouse assured Harris that the public would know well before the school opens how a possible new access road would be used – whether it's open to the public or a bus only entrance.

"As far as the traffic on Kentucky Street, I can't really say until we know what's going to happen with the other road," he said. "However, I can say we have no intention of closing the 7th Street entrance [the school uses now]."

Whitehouse added that the district can look into the possibility of a traffic study, which KIPDA, the Kentuckiana Regional Planning & Development Agency, has aided at no cost in the past.

Representatives from K. Norman Berry rehashed the presentation they gave the board last Thursday for the meeting, giving descriptions of the 2-story, walkout design with a wing for classrooms, all the community-use rooms in one area, the glass-walled media center and use of the sloping terrain. However, very few questions were asked about the building.