Scott County

Some Scott residents say second high school bigger priority than new elementary

A group that wants a second Scott County high school erected a billboard at U.S. 460 and Interstate 75 to spread its message.
A group that wants a second Scott County high school erected a billboard at U.S. 460 and Interstate 75 to spread its message. Lexington Herald-Leader

People seeking a second high school in Scott County are urging residents to turn out in a big way at Tuesday night's school board meeting to push for the cause.

The Scott County Board of Education recently decided to proceed with building a new elementary school, but opponents argue that another high school is a much greater need. They contend Scott County High School is so overcrowded that students struggle to get through the halls between classes.

One group, which is called Scott County High School Too Big to Succeed, has posted a message on its Web site, calling for a big turnout Tuesday to demand a second high school.

"There may never be another chance such as this to remind your school board that you are watching and you expect they will represent your will," the group's posting says. "It is critical that you show up."

But one school board member who is sympathetic to the group's cause said Monday that he had received word from the Scott County Schools' central office that public comment would be limited to 20 minutes Tuesday night.

"There's two scenarios for the meeting," board member Haley Conway said Monday. "Either there will be no one there, which wouldn't surprise me. Or the place will be so packed you can't sit down, and that wouldn't surprise me either."

Scott County Schools Superintendent Patricia Putty could not be reached for comment.

The issue surfaced early last month, after a school board meeting at which Conway and fellow board member Luther Mason exchanged verbal barbs about new buildings.

Conway said enrollment at Scott County High is just under 2,400, possibly making it the largest high school in the state. He contends the county needs another high school and not one but two new elementary schools to meet current and future growth.

The real problem is finding the money, he said.

But lurking in the background of the discussion might be another concern: high school sports.

Scott County High School is an athletics juggernaut. It has won two boys' state basketball championships since the late 1990s and twice has been state football runner-up among large high schools.

Some people pushing for another high school contend there is fear in the community that having two high schools would dilute the talent pool and mean fewer championship teams.

Conway said there was resistance because of sports when he proposed a second high school eight years ago. But he said it had faded in recent years.

Despite his support for a new high school, Conway is not involved in any of the groups now advocating for one.

In addition to its Web site, Too Big To Succeed has established a Facebook page and put up a billboard in Georgetown to spread its message. Another, apparently separate group has posted signs around Georgetown urging people to "Demand Answers" about the school situation.

Leaders of both campaigns have not revealed their names, apparently because at least some of them work for the Scott County Schools and fear retribution.

However, some parents willing to talk on the record insist that a new high school is badly needed.

Trish Reichel, who has a child in elementary school and another in middle school, said she feared what would happen when they reach high school.

"I've experienced the traffic over there, and it's crazy," she said of the high school. "There's overcrowding; it sounds like people are sharing lockers; and they don't have enough room in the cafeteria. In five years it will be worse."

Deborah Martie said her son and other high school students can't get to their lockers between classes because halls are so crowded. Martie also said her son, who attends an early morning Advanced Placement class, sometimes had to sit on the floor earlier this year because the seats were filled.

"Are we going to educate these kids or just push them through," Martie said. "I'm just glad to see someone finally coming forward and doing something."

Conway said decisions must be made soon.

"I think people are realizing that there's a critical need for a new high school, and it's my contention it needs to be planned and started in less than five years," he said. "There is no way in God's green earth that we can wait another 10 years."

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