The board of education in Fayette County, Ky., has voted unanimously to rethink a massive redistricting plan in the works for two years that was designed to diversify the public schools.
In an 11th-hour decision, board members said they were not convinced that a plan using magnet schools and redrawing school boundaries to help diversify the racial makeup of schools would work. The previous school board and school officials had developed the plan.
“Diversity is an ideal,” Valerie Summers, the board chairwoman, said at a Feb. 24 school board meeting. “If somebody can show me that diversity enhances student achievement, then I will move it up on my list.”
The enrollment of the 33,000-student district, which includes Lexington, is 75 percent white, 22 percent black, and 3 percent Asian and Hispanic.
The plan had called for two new elementary schools, at least 10 magnet school programs, and redrawn school boundaries to integrate schools divided down the same racial lines as many Lexington-area neighborhoods and to ease crowding at several schools.
Although the board, which has one black member, decided to open the new schools and go ahead with the magnet programs, most of the boundaries will remain as they are.
The debate upset some parents, who saw it as a step away from integration.
“The board is saying things that question the importance and dedication to diversity,” said Jacques Wigginton, a black parent who helped draw up the redistricting plan as part of an equity task force. “It’s like we’ve shifted back 20 or 30 years.”
Superintendent Peter Flynn said that over the past 25 years redistricting plans have “always been a difficult issue and always result in mixed reactions from parents.”
--KERRY A. WHITE