By Venita Fritz
Tribune-Courier General Manager
SHARPE – Despite promises of a new state-of-the-art high school from McCracken County Board of Education officials, some parents of the district are taking steps now to avoid having their children ever set foot in it.
The problem, concerned parents say, is a lengthy commute to the school set to open in the fall of 2013.
The high school will consolidate Reidland, Lone Oak and Heath high schools under one roof at the new school currently being built on Highway 60 in McCracken County.
The route to the school will take students from Reidland in the eastern part of the county, through the busy Kentucky Oaks Mall area, which concerned parents say is dangerous and too long a commute.
The controversy has many unhappy parents enrolling their students in school systems in neighboring counties.
Superintendent Trent Lovett said Marshall County has seen a record enrollment of McCracken County residents this year. He said in a typical year Marshall may see 25 students cross the county line to attend classes for any number of reasons, including family issues or jobs.
Lovett says Marshall County has a reciprocal agreement with McCracken and other counties to allow students living outside the county to attend classes here. Typically, he says, it all balances out because Marshall will have students choose to attend class in other counties.
That trend started to change last year, as 62 students from McCracken County enrolled in Marshall schools. This year the number stands at 80 and climbing. Lovett says phone calls continue to come in to the board office from parents inquiring about enrollment.
Sharpe Elementary has seen the biggest increase as a result of the enrollments from McCracken County. Just a couple of miles from the McCracken County line on U.S. 68, the school is easily accessible for residents of the Reidland school district.
Ledonia Williamson, Marshall’s Director of Pupil Personnel, said 38 students from McCracken have enrolled in Sharpe, 22 in North Marshall Middle School, 12 at Marshall County High School and a handful to other county schools.
She said Sharpe has taken all the transfers they can at this point and there is currently a waiting list with several names hoping to squeeze in at some point.
Parents outside the district may, however, choose to select a school further inside the county lines.
Lovett said there are plusses and minuses for Marshall County due to the transfers. On the plus side, he said, the money follows the students which may allow for the opportunity to offer more programs and purchase better equipment for the schools.
On the negative side, though, the situation may prevent inter-county transfers if a school becomes too full to take more students.
“If someone from inside Marshall County going to Central Elementary wanted to move to Sharpe and they were already full, it might prevent that,” said Lovett.
Lovett went on to say the Marshall school district was not caught off guard with the transfers. He said soon after the McCracken district announced the location of the new high school a few years ago he started to field calls from concerned parents.
“We anticipated the transfers would continue to increase,” he said.
“We have great schools in Marshall County and we are pleased to open our doors to these students,” said Lovett.