Classes to start amid renovations at 5 Fayette schools

Some Fayette County Public Schools students will return to classes Aug. 12 to the sight of workers in hard hats and the sound of construction.

But school officials insist that the results will be worth any inconvenience.

Five Fayette schools — Arlington Elementary, Russell Cave Elementary, Leestown Middle, Bryan Station Middle and Cassidy Elementary — will be in the midst of renovation projects when classes resume, and the work will be continue throughout the school year. The projects will cost more than $56 million.

Meanwhile, Jessamine County and Madison County public schools are opening new facilities this year.

The new East Jessamine Middle School will house about 850 students, replacing a 1970s-era building that now will become an early-childhood center. Madison County's new B. Michael Caudill Middle School will serve about 700 students from Richmond and the northern part of the county.

In Fayette County, Arlington Elementary students will attend classes at the old Johnson Elementary building, so they won't be affected by renovation work going on at their school.

But just about everybody else will have to make some adjustments so that instruction and construction can continue side by side.

For example, Bryan Station Middle Principal Jim Thomas says that while his school's new cafeteria will be ready next week, the kitchen renovation won't be finished until November. In the interim, lunches will be prepared at neighboring Bryan Station High School, then shipped to the middle school, Thomas said.

Also, the gate between the two schools will be closed each morning and then reopened in the afternoon to ensure safety for students moving in and out of portable classrooms. The school's face lift will continue through the year.

"We think there won't be too much disruption, once we have a day or two to get everybody acclimated," Thomas said. "This school was built in 1977 and has never been renovated, other than some cosmetics. So, we're looking forward to getting everything done."

At Russell Cave Elementary, Principal Betsy Rutherford says work on some classrooms and the school's library won't be completed until October. The kitchen and cafeteria have been overhauled. However, the project's last phase, calling for new offices, won't be done until next July.

"But when you know the end date you can live with some inconvenience," Rutherford said.

Some Cassidy Elementary parents were concerned about the removal of asbestos and other hazardous materials, and had hoped their youngsters could be moved to another building while Cassidy was being renovated. But that wasn't feasible.

However, workers say most potentially hazardous materials were removed over the summer. Any remaining isolated materials will be removed at night when no children are present, officials said. The school has established a safety committee to keep parents posted.

Cassidy Principal Rhonda Fister said students and parents still can expect some rough spots when classes resume next week.

The Cassidy gymnasium is still under renovation, and won't be ready until mid-year. But Fister said physical education classes will go on, either in classrooms or outside. Fortunately, the playground, which was roped off for construction, should reopen soon after classes resume, she said.

"It's going to be a little dusty, but we know it will be worth it all," Fister said.

The main issue at Leestown Middle this semester is that about two-thirds of the building is closed off for construction. Principal Jennifer Kendall says that means sixth and eighth graders will be in portable classrooms when school opens.

The cafeteria also is shut down. So, for a while students will be eating "grab-and-go" breakfasts and lunches in classrooms, Kendall said.

Renovation at Leestown won't be completed until 2011.

"We look at it as kind of an adventure," Kendall said. "And we're all in it together. My office pretty much will be a closet until our new administration area is ready around the first of the year."