Schools withdraw plan to rebuild loading dock that attracted homeless camper

The loading dock area of Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Lexington.
The loading dock area of Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Lexington.

Concerns about costs and timing have put on hold a vote for the Fayette County Public Schools board to spend $88,000 to rebuild the loading dock at Booker T. Washington Elementary School to thwart a homeless camper.

Myron Thompson, senior director of operations and support, said Monday afternoon that the item had been pulled from the agenda of Monday night’s regular monthly meeting after further discussion about the timing of the project.

The Herald-Leader reported earlier in February that the board was considering spending more than $88,000 because the principal and staff had reported repeatedly that a homeless person camps out on the loading dock at the service entry where deliveries are made to the school’s kitchen.

More than once last summer, the homeless person was found inside the school, according to a school board document and school officials.

No students or staff were in the building when the homeless person entered, district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall previously told the Herald-Leader.

District law enforcement and Lexington police had decided that a more permanent solution was needed at the school on Howard Street.

“Several steel gates with padlocks have been installed to prevent entry to the dock area and block access to the service entry doors, but these measures have not been sufficient enough to deter the uninvited camper,” a board document said.

The gates also have created an unintended barrier, and the doors can no longer be used as emergency exits.

School enforcement officers were unable to make contact with the homeless person, Deffendall said.

The proposed $88,000 in cost was needed, according to board documents, to enable the district to reconfigure the loading dock and add new doors with emergency panic hardware. That could have required some demolition, construction of a new concrete loading dock, the installation of new doors and hardware, and changes to electrical power and lighting fixtures.

The modifications were to have been made by the time school starts in August if the board had approved the request Monday night.

“There are issues of functionality, security and safety related to this issue,” Thompson said Monday.

He said the loading dock at the school built in 1971 was not practical and would not be included in today’s building design. He said the loading dock was ultimately going to be fixed when the school was renovated at some later date, but school district officials had wanted to address it now because of the safety and security issues.

Thompson said the loading dock issue needs to be addressed. The question is whether it will be done as a separate project or part of a larger renovation.

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