Bell, Pineville school districts to appeal state decision

Published 4:07 pm Friday, April 26, 2019

Bell County and Pineville Independent school districts will both be appealing the Kentucky Education Commissioner’s ruling to the state school board.

The proposal set forth by Bell County is a one for one exchange of students with Pineville being allowed to take an additional 150 students next school year, then an additional 100 students in 2020, an additional 50 students in 2021 and a straight one for beginning with the 2022 school year.

Pineville wants to keep the current agreement, which is any and all that allow a free exchange of all students.

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There are approximately 268 students currently attending Pineville Schools who live in the Bell County School District and approximately 70 students currently attending Bell County Schools who live in the Pineville School District.

Commission Dr. Wayne D. Lewis Jr. ruled late last week in favor of a one for one exchange, with the stipulation that all students currently enrolled and their siblings are grandfathered in under the old agreement.

Broken down, the one for one exchange would be implemented over a 12-year period instead of over four years.

On Tuesday, both school boards held special-called meetings and held executive sessions. Following those session, both voted to appeal the ruling to the Kentucky State Board of Education.

Bell County Superintendent Yvonne Gilliam said there are several things that their board is concerned about and the difficulty that it would be to keep up with this and the longevity of the ruling.

“You could have siblings born 25 years from now, and this could evolve into a 50-year process,” she said. “That’s not realistic for any school district, so there needs to be a more immediate resolution in my opinion and I think that was the consensus of the board.”

The Pineville School Board was disappointed with the ruling but say they are not surprised.

“We are naturally disappointed, but not terribly surprised,” Pineville School Board Chairman James Golden said. “We are asking for the commissioner and the state board of education to adopt a new rule, a new paradigm that would place parental rights above the rights of the other constituents in this system.”

Golden explained that they are asking for a rule that would basically make “any and all” or an open enrollment the default contract between districts. The current statute allows the commissioner to decide contract issues based on a set of factors that include academic performance, attendance, and the impact on programs, school facilities, transportation and staffing.

If the current ruling moves forward, SEEK funding will continue to follow all non-resident students that currently attend Pineville until they graduate. The ruling will also allow any current or future siblings to attend Pineville. Also, any non-resident student that leaves the district would not be allowed to re-enroll in the district at a later date.

Golden said Pineville intends to continue accepting any children that want to attend school there, regardless of where they live “as long as we’re able to do it.”

Once the appeals are formally submitted to the Kentucky Board of Education, the board will have 60 days to approve or amend the commissioner’s decision.

The Pineville-Sun contributed information to this story.