Scott County school board votes to delay start of construction on new high school

Students walked to their buses after class at Scott County High School in Georgetown, which houses grades 10 to 12. Ninth-graders are in a separate building.
Students walked to their buses after class at Scott County High School in Georgetown, which houses grades 10 to 12. Ninth-graders are in a separate building. Lexington Herald-Leader

GEORGETOWN — The Scott County school board voted 3-2 Thursday night to delay the start of construction on the first phase of a new high school.

Under a schedule, the school was to open in fall 2017, but Thursday's vote pushes back that opening by six months or more.

In two separate votes, Chairman Haley Conway and board members Kevin Kidwell and Stephanie Powers voted for the delay, while Jennifer Holbert and Jo Anna Fryman voted to move forward.

The votes came on two agenda items: approval of plans and specifications for Great Crossing High School and approval of a site preparation package that included excavating, site grading and asphalt paving. The low bid on the excavating and grading package alone was $1.6 million. The district has already spent more than $1 million in design and related costs for the new school.

Scott County parent Jeffery Stone, anticipating the delay before the actual vote, said during the school board meeting that such a vote was not about concerns for site preparation but "it is about personal vendettas that need to be trumped and stopped now."

"A delay in the high school will cost possibly millions, and because of such it is a frivolous use of taxpayers' money," Stone said.

Stone said afterward that it is no secret that there has been animosity between a faction of the board and Superintendent Patricia Putty.

"They simply don't want Putty" overseeing the project as the board's representative, Stone said.

Conway had no comment on that, but after the meeting he said, "I personally think we should wait till a new superintendent is hired. I think they should have a say-so on the new high school because they will be held accountable for it."

Putty's contract expires June 30, and a new superintendent would begin July 1. The board will start interviewing candidates in January.

Nevertheless, Fryman expressed frustration with the delay and said it is the board's job to move forward.

"We have had this, we have looked at it, we have all had input, had opportunities to have questions asked and answered," Fryman said. "I believe this high school should have been voted on and moved forward and open in the fall of 2017."

The first phase, which will cost $15.5 million, will be built on the campus of the district's Elkhorn Crossing career and technical school on Frankfort Road.

It will hold 700 students in grades 9 through 12 after the first phase of construction, but it will ultimately serve 1,500 students.

The project will be built in phases because funding won't be available at once.

A library and more classrooms will be built in the second phase, which is expected to cost $10 million and will open in 2018. The final phase with a gymnasium will open in 2019.

The second high school was proposed for Scott County to relieve overcrowding at Scott County High School.

The new high school won't have enough funding to build athletics facilities in the first phases.

A committee last week recommended that "there is not a reasonable way for Great Crossing High School to offer sports when the school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017."

The committee recommended the school board establish a new panel to find ways to upgrade existing athletic facilities and build new ones.

Some members of the school board saw a need to hold off on starting construction until the availability of other athletic facilities is known. Another proposal was to delay construction until funding for athletic facilities becomes known.

The delay in construction could increase the cost of the school.

Tim Geegan, executive vice president for Alliance Corp., a construction management company, said if the building's footprint on the site is moved, as has been proposed, there will be additional site work and design work.

Scott County's estimated population is 51,284, an increase of 8.7 percent since 2010. A 2011 study by the University of Louisville estimated that Scott County's population would grow to 63,984 in 2020.

"The growth is not going to stop," Tammy Liebenow said during a public comment period before the vote. "Why are we stopping?"