3 Lexington school renovation projects coming in tardy

Arlington, Cassidy, Leestown won't be done when classes start Aug. 11

jwarren@herald-leader.comJuly 13, 2010 

Construction crews are rushing to complete renovations on five Fayette County public schools, but three of the projects won't be completed until after classes resume Aug. 11, according to school district officials.

Work will continue into the school year at Arlington Elementary, Cassidy Elementary and Leestown Middle schools.

That means students at Cassidy and Lees town will have to continue living with clutter and confusion during the first several weeks of the new school year. Arlington students will have to remain a little longer at the old Johnson Elementary School, where they've been attending classes while their school is being renovated.

Schools officials said they're confident, however, that both Bryan Station Traditional Magnet School and Russell Cave Elementary School will be ready for students on Aug. 11. The Russell Cave project is probably closer to completion than any of the five renovations, they said.

The five projects, which are costing almost $57 million, got rolling in early 2009.

Mary Wright, chief operating officer for Fayette County Public Schools, said officials had hoped to complete the projects by the start of the 2010-11 school year but knew that Arlington, Cassidy and Leestown could run over because they involved extensive work, including demolition.

At Arlington, workers demolished and rebuilt about half of the original 51,923-square-foot building, which dated to the 1930s, to produce a new facility with about 65,000 square feet. At Leestown, workers ripped out the school's old entrance and replaced it with a new entry and administrative area.

Cassidy is getting more classroom space, a new and expanded library, and a larger administrative area. Wright noted that Cassidy sits on a compact site, which complicated construction and added to completion time.

"Any of the projects that require demolition are just by the nature of the beast going to take more time," Wright said. "We knew that depending on how extensive a project was it could go into the next school year. It really is contingent on how much construction there is."

Neither Russell Cave nor Bryan Station required much demolition, she noted. They're getting such things as classroom upgrades, new lighting, and improved heating and air conditioning and plumbing.

According to school officials, the plan is for Arlington students to return to class at Johnson Elementary when schools reopen in August. Their last day there would be Friday, Oct. 1. They would move into the newly renovated Arlington school on Monday, Oct. 4.

"I'm sure they're all anxious and really excited to get into their new school," Wright said. "But the project has been lengthy because Arlington is probably the most extreme makeover that we're doing."

Arlington is the only school where students were moved to another building during renovation. Students at the other four schools have been using portable classrooms during work at their facilities.

At Cassidy, renovation of some classrooms is not finished, and work on the school's new kitchen is continuing, district officials said. Cassidy probably won't receive its final finishing touches until October, they said.

Wright also said the huge pile of dirt at the Cassidy construction site — something parents often ask about — won't disappear for a while. Eventually, the mound of top soil will be leveled, spread over the site and sowed with grass.

"Unfortunately, this is not the time of year for us to be sowing grass seed," Wright said.

Work at Leestown Middle School should be substantially complete by the end of October, officials said

In addition to the new entrance and administrative areas, Leestown is getting heating and air conditioning, upgrades to classrooms, and improved lighting and plumbing.

District officials also continue to pledge that Lafayette High School's new football stadium will be ready this fall, although Lafayette's first few games will have to be "away" games. The stadium should be completed in September, officials said.

Even as the renovations near an end, other schools projects are picking up.

Wright said construction is moving rapidly at the new, as-yet-unnamed elementary school on Keithshire Way, and work will be shifting into high gear soon at the new Locust Trace Agriscience Center on Leestown Pike.

The two facilities, both planned for completion in 2011, will be the county schools' most environmentally friendly to date, she said.

Renovations at Yates Elementary and Tates Creek Elementary will be starting soon, with completion planned in 2011.

Design work on four more renovation projects — Breckinridge, Cardinal Valley, Mary Todd and Millcreek elementary schools — is about to begin, but construction won't start until next year. They're slated for completion in 2012.

Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397 Ext. 3255.

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