Lexington is a step closer to having its first new middle school since 2004.
On Monday, Fayette County’s school board voted unanimously to buy about 20 acres of land in the Peninsula development along Squires Road in east Lexington.
Kentucky American Water Co. is selling the land at $103,000 an acre, or about $2 million total.
“Land is hard to come by here in Fayette County, and we are thankful that the water company had the foresight to identify suitable property for a new school in a developing area like this one,” Superintendent Manny Caulk said in a statement. “As a growing district, we have to be diligent about staying ahead of new housing construction while also ensuring that we are taking care of our existing buildings.”
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Over the past decade, Fayette’s public schools have gained 500 to 700 students a year.
“Today’s board decision will help us keep pace with the ongoing housing construction in northeast Lexington,” Caulk said. “We don’t want to be reactive; our goal is to stay ahead of the expansion.”
The purchase, which requires final approval by the Kentucky Department of Education, follows months of talks. The district would pay for the land with residuals from existing school construction bonds.
The land is surrounded on three sides by a Kentucky American Water reservoir. Its address would be Squires Road, but the land is in the center of the peninsula. Current plans call for a 110,521-square-foot middle school costing $25.9 million. District officials want to build it for 1,000 students.
District chief operating officer Myron Thompson told the Herald-Leader that construction could begin by 2020-21.
The newest middle school building in the district is Edythe J. Hayes, which opened in August 2004. Since then, major renovations have been completed at four other middle schools: Bryan Station, Jessie Clark, Leestown and Tates Creek.
“We have demonstrated our commitment to renovate existing buildings while also constructing new schools to address enrollment growth,” Caulk said.
The school district’s 2017 facilities plan calls for two new elementary schools, a new middle school and a building for STEAM Academy. A new elementary school on Athens Boonesboro Road is in the design phase, and the district recently bought property to provide a permanent home for STEAM.
The plan also calls for major renovations of 17 properties, including the expansion of the district’s technical centers, and wholesale renovations at Henry Clay, Lafayette, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek high schools, and three middle schools.
Thompson said timetables on those projects should be available in the next few months.