Fayette schools to add 15 minutes to school days to finish the year on June 6

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMarch 24, 2014 

The Fayette County Board of Education voted Monday night to make the last day of school in Fayette County June 6 and to add 15 minutes to the end of each school day beginning April 7.

In addition to the plan to make up snow days, the board approved a contract to acquire an additional 15 acres of land for $1.7 million on Winchester Road for a high school that is planned to address the district's overcrowding.

The district is able to build the new school at the same time that it looks for ways to trim the budget by $20 million because "construction projects are paid for specifically out of dedicated funds that are building funds" that can not be commingled with operating funds, Superintendent Tom Shelton said last night.

Some discussion at the meeting centered around Shelton's announcement last month that the district had to cut $20 million — or about 5 percent — from its $433.1 million budget. Staffing is a key part of the budget because it makes up nearly 88 percent of the $433 million budget

To save money, the board approved some new job titles in special education that represent a combining of positions. The board's decision could result in cutting at least five full-time special education positions and saving the district $250,000 in its 2014-15 budget, although that doesn't necessarily mean five people would lose their jobs, chief academic officer Lu Young said in an interview after the meeting. Specific decisions on position cuts are pending, she said.

The district is still making decisions about staffing cuts, but the board's action on Monday did result in one definitive action:

The positions of special education administrative staff, or facilitators, who don't directly work with students, and special education diagnosticians, who test students, will be combined into one position called achievement and compliance coach. Shelton has said that change is an example of the plan to reduce staff who do not provide direct service to students.

On the issue of snow days, the board had to revise the school calendar because students in Fayette County Public Schools have missed 13 days due to snow, ice and cold in the 2013-14 school year.

The school district also logged nine hours of late arrivals and early dismissals. No more than five hours of late arrivals or early dismissals are allowed and forgiven automatically by the state, according to district documents.

The district has made up or is scheduled to make up 10 snow days.

Shelton has said adding time to the school day is necessary to complete the state required equivalent of 1,062 hours of instruction. The current school calendar reflects 177 days, of six hours and five minutes a day.

Under the current calendar, the last scheduled day of school would have been June 11. Shelton said he didn't think students would benefit from going to school into the second week of June. The board agreed to forgive June 9, 10 and 11.

To end by June 6, Shelton said, it is necessary to add 15 minutes to each instructional day beginning April 7.

School board member Doug Barnett expressed frustration last night that state lawmakers hadn't been able to come up with a statewide plan to give relief to school districts hit hard by snow days, that they "can't seem to get it together to come up with a simple solution to this issue."

Property purchase

In December, the board approved the purchase of 49 acres from Haymaker Development Co. for $5.6 million at 1970 Winchester Road for the new high school. The appraised value of the 49 acres was $7.9 million, according to board documents released in December.

After meeting with a large group including residents, school leaders and teachers, "it became clear that in order to do everything that we want to do with the new school, it would be hard to do that within the 49 acres," Shelton said.

"We went back to the seller, and he agreed to give another 15 acres at the same cost per acre as the original site," Shelton said.

That parcel of land will cost $1.7 million.

The purchase of that land from Haymaker will allow for greater flexibility to meet current and future needs for the master plan of the planned high school, officials said.

The high school is set to open in August 2017. It would be Fayette County's first entirely new high school since Paul Laurence Dunbar opened in 1990.

A new building for the existing Bryan Station High School was opened in 2007.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.

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