ASHLAND Parents of Crabbe students left a public forum Tuesday saying they still had unanswered questions about the proposed conversion of the school into a kindergarten and pre-school center.

Parents pressed school officials for specifics on the conversion and how it would affect their children, and said they were not satisfied with the answers.

“I don’t feel there were real answers. I feel like the forum was to appease us and give us political answers, and no one in the community is really on board,” said Dee Williams, president of the Crabbe PTO.

The board of education plans to discuss and possibly approve the conversion at its March 25 meeting. If approved, Crabbe would house classes for kindergarten and four-year-old preschoolers starting in the fall.

Three-year-old preschoolers would continue to attend Head Start at the former Hatcher Elementary.

Speakers at the forum, mostly Crabbe parents, focused mainly on transportation, the need for a neighborhood school and services for special needs children. Speakers also questioned whether the two-story building is suitable for very young children.

“I’m an advocate of community schools and I’m not sure we’re doing this for the benefit of children. It seems we want to take test scores and level them out,” said Nancy Stafford, whose children attended Crabbe and who lives nearby.

“What you all are doing here is an injustice to these little babies,” she said.

School officials owe parents a better explanation of the benefits of the move, said Brittany Hayes, who has children at Hager Elementary and one who would go to Crabbe if it becomes a preschool and kindergarten center.

If that happens she and other parents like her will have children in multiple schools, she said. The move also would be unfair to people who bought homes based on a school’s attendance zone, she said.

Making additional transitions will be difficult for special-needs children, said Kasheena Davis, whose son has autism. She also doesn’t want to lose access to the Crabbe staff and the relationships they have built with Crabbe parents. “You have some real talent at Crabbe and I’d hate the district to lose that,” she said.

If the school board goes ahead with the plan, Crabbe staff will be reassigned to other schools in the district, Superintendent Sean Howard said.

Concentrating the district’s youngest children in one building would create health issues, said Crabbe school nurse Bridget Lemon-Justice.

Children that age have not acquired hygiene habits and would be more likely to spread colds, flu and other illnesses to each other and then across the district, she said.

District officials passed out brochures listing benefits of a preschool and kindergarten center. Among them:

n Emotional and social development.

n Self-care and care for others.

n Structure and fun.

n Cognitive, language, math and reading skills.

n Encouraging curiosity.

n Preparation for higher grades.

n Strengthening connections at home, school and in the community.

The district chose Crabbe because of its downtown location, its playground and its suitability for the age range, according to another district handout.

The conversion would cost about $20,000, mainly in providing age-appropriate fixtures and additional transportation.

The district would implement staggered transportation schedules for families with children at multiple schools. Transportation would be provided to school-related extra-curricular activities.

Class sizes at other elementaries would not change much because if enrollment increases at a school more teachers would be added, said director of student achievement Richard Oppenheimer.

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Mike James is The Independent's education reporter. He has covered news in Northeast Kentucky since 1996.