Lexington’s next elementary school will be the largest ever built in Fayette County.
Given that east Fayette County is considered a growth area, school officials are proposing to add classrooms and spend $3.7 million more on the proposed new 80,000-square-foot school on Athens-Boonesboro Road. That will raise the price tag for the school to $25.4 million instead of the $21.7 million that had originally been discussed by the school board.
One other existing elementary close in size, officials say, is Stonewall, which was renovated about five years ago.
For the first time, school district officials want to build an elementary school that from the outset has a capacity for 750 students, instead of 650. Construction is set to start in April with final completion planned for August 2019.
On Oct. 23, Fayette County Public Schools board members will be asked to spend the higher amount for the school. State education officials also will have to approve the newer plan. The additional money will also be used to expand corridors, restroom facilities, and seating in the gym.
For 20 years, district officials have built elementary schools to accommodate 650 students, said Bill Wallace, district director of Facility Design & Construction. Those buildings were about 73,000 square feet.
Wallace said more than 20 years ago, school district instructional staff determined that an elementary school with more than 650 students was “too hard to manage.”
“But the problem was that we built them for 650 and then more kids kept coming,” Wallace said. “Being overcrowded is probably a worse problem.”
Some elementary schools are overcrowded and using portable classrooms, Wallace said. Building a bigger school will help guard “against having to put portables on the site because those portables are fairly expensive compared to building the new square footage at the beginning of the job.”
Some existing elementary schools in the district such as Stonewall have been renovated to accommodate more than 700 students, but this will be the first time that a new elementary school is being built to accommodate 750 students, officials said.
The Athens-Boonesboro Road area “in particular is seeing a tremendous amount of development,” said Myron Thompson, district Senior Director of Operations and Support.
There have also been talks occurring in regard to another school construction project. The school district has an option to buy approximately 20 acres of land for a proposed new middle school in the center of a development on Squires Road in east Lexington.
Now that the development has gained approval from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Planning Commission in September, school officials have resumed conversations about acquiring the land, Thompson has said.