Education

Scott superintendent to organize group to explore new high school

A group that wants a second Scott County high school erected a billboard at U.S. 460 and Interstate 75 to spread its message.
A group that wants a second Scott County high school erected a billboard at U.S. 460 and Interstate 75 to spread its message. Lexington Herald-Leader

Scott County School Superintendent Patricia Putty says she is trying to pull together a task force to consider how the school district might afford a new high school.

The idea for a study group grew out of Tuesday night's Scott County School Board meeting, at which about 100 residents called for a second high school as soon as possible, arguing that the existing Scott County High School is badly overcrowded.

The school board has begun construction on a new elementary school in Georgetown, but many at Tuesday's meeting contended that a second high school is a more critical need.

Putty told the Herald-Leader on Friday that several people have contacted her since the meeting offering to serve on a task force to study a new high school. She said she's trying to line up someone to facilitate the formation of the body and hopes it can be activated quickly.

"The school board and I all want a new high school and a new elementary school," Putty said. "But the bottom line is that we just do not have the funding to do so. Unless we have some increased revenue pretty soon, it will be several years before we can build a high school."

Putty said that in her view, the proposed task force should "review the probability in the community of being able to possibly look at a tax increase and how supportive of that the community would be."

She admitted, however, that given current economic conditions, it's unclear how receptive Scott County residents might be.

The current school tax rate in Scott County is 43.3 cents per $100 evaluation on real estate, according to the school district. That's one of the lower rates in the area, Putty said.

Fayette County's tax rate, which the Fayette school board raised last August, is 65.2 cents per $100.

Proponents of a new high school have criticized the Scott County Schools' decision to build a new elementary school. But Putty defended the move, saying the school system's Local Planning Committee, which approved a facilities plan calling for the elementary, "felt very strongly that an elementary was the No. 1 priority."

Putty said that when Scott County built Elkhorn Crossing School, a career-tech facility, some parents complained that an elementary would have been a better choice.

Putty said Friday that even if the Scott County board wanted to, it couldn't reverse itself, cancel the new elementary school and make a high school the new priority. That would require rewriting the facilities plan and sending it back to the state school board for approval, she said.

Putty estimates that it would take "maybe eight years" for the school system to build up enough additional bonding capacity for the second high school. Some have contended that it could be 10 years.

Randall Cutright, the Scott schools' finance director, said Friday that the time table could be speeded up by an economic recovery or possibly by "staging" the construction of a new school.

Ultimately, it comes down to money, Putty said.

"We're going to have to have additional revenue from somewhere," she said. "If the task force can help investigate other resources and find ways of increasing revenue so we would be able to build a second high school in a more timely fashion, we would be open to looking at that."

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