Fayette schools proposal calls for seven new schools, renovations

jwarren@herald-leader.comNovember 14, 2012 

  • If You Go

    Public hearing for the Fayette County public schools'proposed facilities plan.

    When: 5:30 p.m. Thursday

    Where: Fayette Public Schools central offices, 701 E. Main St.

  • New schools proposed

    Seven new schools in Fayette County's proposed 2013-17 facilities plan:

     High school for 1,800 students; probably somewhere between Winchester and Richmond roads.

     STEAM high school for 600 students, near or possibly on University of Kentucky campus.

     Middle school, 900 students, probably between Richmond and Winchester roads.

     Elementary school, 650 students, 1881 Deer Haven Lane.

     Elementary school, 650 students, somewhere in Georgetown Road-Masterson Station area.

     Elementary school, 650 students, somewhere in the Athens-Chilesburg area

     Early childhood development center, 250 students, undetermined location.

The Fayette County Public Schools' proposed new facilities plan, intended to guide district construction projects for 2013-17, calls for seven new schools, including a new 1,800-student high school.

Officials have not determined a location for the new high school. But Mary Wright, the Fayette schools' chief operating officer, said Wednesday that it would likely be somewhere between Richmond Road and Winchester Road, where rapid population growth continues. Fayette County has not built a new high school since Paul Laurence Dunbar opened in 1990.

Locations for most of the other new schools also are sketchy.

The proposal for seven new schools is the most in any Fayette schools facilities plan in recent memory, Wright said.

"This is an attempt not only to deal with our current enrollment, but also looking forward to what we think we will need over the next several years," Wright said.

Wright said Wednesday that the plan could cost a total of $200 million, although she stressed that the estimate is very preliminary and subject to change. The school district expects to have a bonding capacity of about $215 million available during 2013-17, she said.

The proposed facilities plan was developed over the past few months by a 19-member committee to meet projected population growth and enrollment needs.

Much of the proposed new school construction is intended to accommodate Fayette County's enrollment growth, which has been adding almost 1,000 new students annually for the past few years.

Henry Clay High School is above capacity now, and the other four county high schools are at or near capacity, Wright said.

"Obviously, we're trying to project where there is going to be not only current growth, but continued growth over the next several years," Wright said. "And we have some constraints. When we build a new school, we have to do that so that we have the infrastructure in place."

The plan is divided into two bienniums, with six new schools scheduled in the first two-year period. One new elementary is slated in the second biennium.

In addition to the new high school, the plan provides for the recently announced "STEAM" facility (science, technology, engineering arts and math) that Fayette County wants to develop with the University of Kentucky; STEAM would serve up to 600 high school students.

Also included: a new middle school; three new elementary schools (one previously announced); and a new early childhood development center with space for up to 250 children. It would help expand the number of 3- and 4-year olds who can attend programs to help jumpstart their education.

A major renovation for Paul Laurence Dunbar is planned, as well as extensive improvements at several other Lexington schools, including Henry Clay, Lafayette and Tates Creek high schools. Renovations also would be made to the school system's central offices.

Dunbar, for example, would get a new, more secure entrance, improvements to its heating and air systems and its roof and a dozen new classrooms. The projected cost is more than $14 million.

Henry Clay would get an estimated $11 million in improvements, including safety upgrades, exterior lighting, technological upgrades and a gymnasium floor. Lafayette and Tates Creek high schools would get $13.8 million and $12 million in improvements, respectively.

Squires Elementary would get more than $9 million in upgrades, including new classrooms, conference rooms and a family resource suite.

The cost figures are broad estimates and could change, officials said.

The Fayette County Board of Education and the Kentucky Department of Education must approve the plan before it becomes official. It is expected to go before the Fayette board next month.

For now, a new elementary school announced this summer for Deer Haven Lane, east of Interstate 75, is the only school that has a site and a begin date. That school, carried over from the district's current facilities plan, is expected to be under construction sometime next year.

The district has not bought land for any other schools. The seven new schools are listed in the plan as future needs, but the plan does not set priorities for the order in which they should be built. That decision would be up to the Fayette County school board.

During an interview Wednesday, Wright said she could offer only general locations for where the new schools might be built.

Locations ultimately will depend on population trends, enrollment and the availability of suitable building sites, Wright said.

"Obviously, we're actively looking for property; we're open to all options," she said. "We have a lot of kids in our elementary schools right now, so moving forward they will need places to go."

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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