Education

A new $12 million school scheduled to open last fall is sitting empty. Here’s why.

This is the new $12 million Renaissance Learning Center in Floyd County, built by the Army Corps of Engineers, that can’t open because of a water pressure problem
This is the new $12 million Renaissance Learning Center in Floyd County, built by the Army Corps of Engineers, that can’t open because of a water pressure problem U.S. Corps of Engineers

A new $12 million school in Floyd County that was supposed to open by last October is sitting empty because of a lack of water pressure.

The water pressure at the new Renaissance Learning Center at Martin won’t support the emergency sprinklers in the building’s anti-fire suppression system, said Floyd County School Superintendent Danny Adkins. A solution for the problem has not been finalized.

“It’s been frustrating,” said Adkins. “The facility is sitting up there, a brand new facility we can’t get in.”

Army Corps officials have brought up the water pressure issue since at least September 2017, according to the Floyd County Chronicle and Times.

However, Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Capt. Roxanne Jones, said Friday that there is a plan she hopes will get the new school opened by next fall.

To fix the water pressure problem in the new building, officials will have to increase the size of a water meter and run a new water line to the building, Jones said. The town of Martin’s water system is outdated, she said.

“Prestonsburg and Martin have told us that yes, there are a lot of leaks on the Martin line,” Jones said.

This idea will be discussed with local city officials at a Feb. 21 meeting.

The Army Corps of Engineers built the Renaissance Learning Center building largely with federal funds as part of a project to move homes, businesses and buildings in Martin out of a flood plain, said Jones.

Last year, the Corps received $80 million from the 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act to complete the flood mitigation and relocation project in Martin. The cost of the new water line and meter would be rolled into that project, said Jones.

That Martin flood mitigation and relocation project began in 2004, and is expected to be completed in 2025, according to a press release from U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers.

“This community has suffered 10 major floods in its history, but completion of this critical flood control program is finally in sight,” Rogers said last year, when the $80 million was secured for the project.

The Corps will provide a draft agreement to Martin and Prestonsburg officials to finalize the new water line and meter plans, Jones said.

The Center helps students who have fallen behind in high school credits needed for graduation. Floyd County Schools will own and operate the new building, said Adkins.

Two weeks ago, Adkins moved students from an aging building that was home to the Renaissance Learning Center into the old Allen Central High School, which closed more than a year ago. Adkins said the original Renaissance Center building had several leaks and students could no longer stay there.

Adkins, who became the superintendent in May, said once the new building opens he hopes to revitalize the program, adding more technical and night classes.

Danielle Smoot, a spokeswoman for Rogers, said Friday that the Congressman “has been in direct contact” with the Army Corps of Engineers regarding water service for the new Renaissance Learning Center.

“The Congressman was disappointed that the new facility did not open at the beginning of the school year as scheduled, but he has been working with the Corps and all stakeholders to resolve the water issue as soon as possible. Ample funding is in place and the Corps has indicated that necessary agreements are being finalized to fix the water pressure problem,” she said.

Staff writer Valarie Honeycutt Spears covers K-12 education, social issues and other topics. She is a Lexington native with southeastern Kentucky roots.


Will Wright is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. Based in Pikeville, Wright joined the Herald-Leader in January 2018 and reports on Eastern Kentucky.


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