When she moved to Scott County in 2008, Erin Faherty knew there was overcrowding at Scott County High School.
But, she was only casually interested. After all, her son Jake was in elementary school.
Now, Jake is in the eighth grade and he’ll start high school next year at an ever-more crowded Scott County High School. Currently, the high school has 2,400 students enrolled, about 500 more than it was designed to hold and about 300 new students are coming into the district each year, all destined for one high school.
And construction of a second Scott County high school named Great Crossing doesn’t seem close to starting.
Faherty and other parents say they’ve had enough. A group of seven, calling themselves “Mad Moms,” showed up unexpectedly at the Aug. 25 meeting of the Scott County School Board. Faherty was their spokeswoman. The group printed placards, set up a Facebook page and plan to appear again soon before the school board. They expect some answers.
“It is about the kids,” Faherty said, adding that she and her group have heard from a lot of people who feel as they do.
“Our children may not benefit from the second high school, but the issues that are holding it up need to be identified and addressed systematically,” she said.
The talk about the need for a second high school in Scott County has been taking place for at least a decade. It’s been stalled the last five years through a change in the leadership of the school board and the superintendent. A second school building, Elkhorn Crossing School, has been open at another location to handle overflow from the high school, but is still officially part of Scott County High School.
Tax-increase proposals to fund construction have been put forward, and have failed, multiple times. Meanwhile, according to the school district, about 300 new students move into the district each year. Several elementary schools and a middle school have been built that will ultimately feed into the single high school.
Tom Taylor, a Mad Dad in the Mad Moms group, said he’s frustrated. Like Faherty, he’s been watching the situation without weighing in for a long time.
He and his wife, Stacey, moved to Scott County 12 years ago and heard about high school overcrowding back then. His son, Brock, was a baby then. He’s 13 now.
Taylor has attended several school board meetings in the last few years tracking the progress of the high school. And he’s seen a number of stops and starts. He was hopeful when Superintendent Kevin Hub started his new job with the district in July because Hub said building a second high school was his first priority. But by August, the plan was back on hold.
“It’s a frustrating pattern,” said Taylor.
Kristi Lopez has seen one son, Cameron, graduate from Scott County High School and has a second, Aiden, in the seventh grade. She said parents don’t feel like they are getting the whole story.
“We thought the building plan was mostly in place and a new school — albeit one not without issues and controversy — would open in 2017. Now, it seems we are nowhere near that plan or that time line. We want no more excuses or delays, we want the building process to begin now.”
“It’s hard to understand the dynamics” of the ongoing delays, said Faherty.
The school board has said that the crowding at the school — which is at least 20 percent over capacity — has not hurt the quality of education, but Faherty said Scott County does have lower college readiness scores than high schools in surrounding counties. And, she said, the quality of an education goes beyond test scores.
The band is 300 kids strong and doesn’t have enough uniforms. In the current crowded condition, it’s hard for students who might be struggling to get individual attention they need, said Faherty.
It’s even hard for kids to find their place to shine because there are so many competing for a space as an actor in the school play or champion of the chess club or as president of bass fishing team, she said. (Yes, there is a bass fishing club.)
Scott County has become a powerhouse in football and other sports. And the need to keep a large pool of eligible players together is often discussed in private as the reason for pushback against a second high school.
But for Taylor, the large number of student-athletes is one reason he is considering moving to Franklin County even though his family loves Georgetown.
Brock plays baseball. His dad wants him to have the experience of playing on a high school team.
“My son is pretty good, but he is not elite,” Taylor said. “How many opportunities is he going to have? You have to be pretty darn good to even make the team.”
It’s the same across other sports, he said, especially basketball. Taylor said there are a lot of students playing intramural basketball through Scott County Parks and Recreation who could start on teams in surrounding counties.
Faherty, Lopez and Taylor all said they aren’t promoting a tax increase, but something needs to happen to get the second high school built and fully functioning. A tax increase proposed by Hub in July would have cost homeowners an average of $75 a year.
At the Aug. 25 county school board meeting, the group was allowed to make a comment but there was no interaction with the board. Faherty said the school had to be built now whether it is funded through a tax increase or some other kind of resource.
It’s past time for action, Faherty said in her statement to the board.
“You can’t go shopping for a smoke detector when the house is on fire,” she said. “We need a new high school and we need it now.”
Discussion is ongoing among a group of parents on what to do next, Faherty said. But one step is certain. They soon will be back before the board, on the agenda and able to have a full discussion on the issues.
Their Facebook page, BuildNowSc, has received 121 likes in its first couple of days.
“We love it, living in this community,” Faherty said. “We just want it to be the best possible Georgetown it can be.”
Since Hub pulled the tax increase off the table, he’s been asked by several of the county’s schools to speak at parents’ meetings about the need for a second high school, he said.
“I think the silent majority has now become the vocal majority,” he said.
The recent evolution of Scott County High #2
Discussion about the need for a second high school has gone on for a decade. At 2,400 students, Scott County High is one of the largest schools in Kentucky. It was built to hold roughly 1,900. Here is the most recent twists in the path to construction.
▪ August 2010: Elkhorn Crossing School opens to relieve overcrowding: 430 students are bused 4.2 miles to the ECS campus for half-day sessions in college prep learning tracks like engineering.
▪ February 2012: A citizens group, SCHS Too Big, erects a billboard on the Georgetown bypass complaining of overcrowding at the high school.
▪ November 2013 A group of Scott County residents begin circulating a petition opposing a tax increase for a new high school, just hours after the Scott County Board of Education approve it.
▪ August 2014: School board announces the first phase of a second high school will open in 2017.
▪ January 2015: School board drops tax increase for second high school but says it will be built.
▪ February 2015: School district asks the public for name suggestions for second high school which is dubbed Great Crossing.
▪ October 2015: It’s announced that Great Crossing may not have athletic fields.
▪ July 2016: New Superintendent Kevin Hub announces he will push for a tax increase to build a second high school via three public meetings.
▪ August 2016: After one public meeting, Hub says he won’t pursue a tax increase or the building of a second high school.