Lexington's old Northside Branch library building on Russell Cave Road is about to get a new lease on life.
The University of Kentucky, which bought the property in 2008, plans to start renovating the building this week as the first step in converting it into a professional development center for math and science teachers, from kindergarten through high school. Space in the building also will be earmarked for UK undergraduates to do hands-on lab work in urban ecology and related subjects.
The plan also is to make faculty members available to lend their expertise or to make presentations to students at nearby Winburn Middle School, said UK Provost Kumble Subbaswamy.
The new center is expected to open in the fall, he said.
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According to Subbaswamy, the project is expected to cost $2.3 million. About $1 million of that will come from Lexmark, a major player in UK's Partnership Institute for Mathematics and Science Education Reform, which promotes expanded technical education from preschool through college.
The building became available after the Lexington Public Library moved the Northside Branch to a new, much larger building on Russell Cave Road in September 2008.
UK bought the old building and grounds at auction for $1.2 million. The property includes the 11,056-square-foot facility, built in 1983-84, and about 5 acres of grounds.
Subbaswamy noted that the property is adjacent to UK's 55-acre ecological research facility, which made integrating the two a natural move.
"But we also wanted a nice new place where we could continue our outreach work, particularly in terms of professional development for K-12 teachers in science and math from across the commonwealth," he said. "We've really never had a reasonably sized facility with parking where teachers could come from around the region, attend our workshops and easily get back home."
UK has been staging teacher workshops at motels or other facilities that weren't always convenient for such sessions, Subbaswamy said. But that will change when the renovated property opens in the fall.
Subbaswamy said teachers from Central and Eastern Kentucky will be able to come to the new center and spend the day in seminars or workshops, learning new math-science teaching ideas in a hands-on manner.
UK students also will use the building.
"Even though we have the ecological research facility over there, it's been difficult for us to conduct classes on site involving laboratory work," he said. "So, we will establish a classroom for teaching our undergraduates, as well as some other possible uses, at the library building."
The ecology research facility studies issues such as how native wildlife integrates into the urban environment.