State won't approve size of proposed Lexington high school; board to discuss seeking waiver

An artist's rendering of the proposed high school on Winchester Road
An artist's rendering of the proposed high school on Winchester Road

The Kentucky Department of Education won't approve the size of Fayette County's proposed high school on Winchester Road, so the school board will discuss Monday whether to ask for an official waiver from the state Board of Education, according to Fayette board documents.

Fayette County plans to build the high school, designed for 1,800 students, on a 65-acre site at 1970 Winchester Road. It is scheduled to open in fall 2017.

An Oct. 13 letter to Fayette Superintendent Tom Shelton from Hiren Desai, associate commissioner at the Kentucky Department of Education, laid out the issue. The letter was provided to the Herald-Leader by education department officials.

The district has asked the state to approve a high school with approximately 285,790 square feet. But state officials have said the maximum permissible building area is 272,160 square feet.

In June, state officials told the district that the building's architects should schedule a review session with the education department for final schematic design approval before proceeding.

A review was not scheduled, and state officials did not receive a response from the district, Desai's letter said.

The letter said that "if the district continues to pursue the project at its present size and no reduction is made to bring the building into compliance with the law, KDE cannot issue approval of this phase or any subsequent phase, advertisement for bids, bond sales or contracts for construction."

"If this situation would create an undue burden for the school district, another possible resolution may be for the district to request an official waiver (through KDE) from the Kentucky Board of Education for this particular project."

The waiver request would need to be submitted as soon as possible, Desai said. If a waiver were granted, it would be for the high school only and would not allow the district to bypass requirements for future projects.

Education department spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said last week that Fayette County was "not in compliance with KDE regulations but, as the letter states, KDE has been working with the district to resolve the issue through a waiver. The district was informed of this in June, and approval was predicated on the architect scheduling a further review and satisfying the building size issue."

Fayette County Public Schools officials who have been working on the project were not immediately available for comment.

According to school district documents, some of the space at issue could be in a proposed auxiliary gymnasium.

Fayette County officials are recommending approval of the waiver request, the district documents said, "in order to remove this potential obstacle out of the path of the new high school's progress."