Fayette buying land for elementary school on Athens-Boonesboro Road

Fayette County Public Schools central offices at 701 East Main Street, Lexington.
Fayette County Public Schools central offices at 701 East Main Street, Lexington.

After months of negotiations, the Fayette County Public Schools board voted Monday to buy 39 acres adjacent to Edythe J. Hayes Middle School on Athens-Boonesboro Road for a new elementary school.

The board is buying the property from Centenary United Methodist Church for $2.7 million, said Myron Thompson, senior operations and support director.

District officials first announced their intentions to buy the property in June 2015, but Thompson said the district had to work through issues with the Kentucky Department of Education and the Transportation Cabinet.

He said there were right-of-way issues and state officials wanted to make sure that school funds weren’t being spent on improvements to private property. The school board is buying close to 40 acres of a 100-acre tract and Centenary is retaining 60 acres.

Thompson said the new school probably would not be built before fall 2019. Two new elementary schools opened in Fayette County in August. District officials are also in negotiations to buy property in the Richmond Road corridor for a middle school.

The district is building a new high school on Winchester Road that will open in 2017. The board on Monday approved a $477 million general fund budget for 2016-2017 that included $2 million in one-time start-up costs for the new high school.

In addition, the budget also includes $100,000 for the salary of the principal at the new high school. Salaries are between $100,000 and $110,000 for Fayette County’s high school principals.

There are also start-up costs for law enforcement at the new high school: $350,000 for five law enforcement officers and $140,000 for police cruisers, radios and uniforms.

Hiren Desai, senior administrative services director, said the district is in “healthy financial condition” and is “moving in the right direction.” One indicator is that its contigency or rainy day fund has grown since 2015-16 from $25 million to $32 million.

At least $2 million in the budget is being spent on instructional priorities in Superintendent Manny Caulk’s entry plan, including hiring college and career coaches, special education teachers and teachers for gifted and talented students.

Sixty-five percent of the budget is spent on instruction.

An $150,000 expenditure is directed at fixing deficiencies in equity between boys’ baseball and girls’ softball programs at Fayette County high schools that include Lafayette, Henry Clay, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Bryan Station.

The deficiencies are a violation of federal Title IX laws requiring that females get high school athletic opportunities and benefits equal to males. Kentucky High School Athletics Association Commissioner Julian Tackett told the Kentucky Board of Education about the deficiencies during a presentation on gender equity issues in June.

In the past, at some Fayette County high schools, boosters clubs have built locker rooms for the boys in dugouts near the fields. The school district built softball fields and dugouts for the girls, but the girls’ lockers are inside the school gyms.

Desai said the money earmarked in the 2016-17 budget will be spent on surveying areas that need the improvements.

Last week, district Athletic Director Robbie Sayre brought the deficiencies to the attention of the Local Planning Committee. The upgrades were estimated in 2013 to cost $3.3 million at each school. For the upgrades to move forward, the committee will have to decide whether to keep them as a priority in the 2017 plan that is being drafted.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears