Fayette County might want to consider larger elementary schools, board told

Portable classrooms have been used at Fayette County schools to deal with overcrowding and during building renovations.
Portable classrooms have been used at Fayette County schools to deal with overcrowding and during building renovations. Staff File Photo

Should Fayette County Public Schools build larger elementary schools?

That question arose Monday night at a school board planning meeting when Hiren Desai, the district’s senior director of administrative services, and budget director Julane Mullins told board members the district was expecting some elementary schools to be over capacity in the 2016-17 school year, when two new elementary schools will open.

The overcrowding would generate a need for portable classrooms at several schools, said Myron Thompson, acting senior director of operations and support.

District officials think they will need an additional $400,000 in the current budget to have portables in place by the start of school in August.

For the 2016-17 budget, district officials think $900,000 will be needed for portables.

Typically, Fayette County builds elementary schools to accommodate 650 students, but Desai, who most recently worked for the Kentucky Department of Education, said the district could apply to the state for a waiver to build larger schools based on the district’s needs.

District officials are looking for guidance from school staffs to see whether larger schools work from an instructional standpoint.

Superintendent Manny Caulk said that there were pros and cons to larger elementary schools, and it would depend whether Fayette County continues to grow and the needs of the community.

Part of the expected overcrowding is a result of the board’s decision to eliminate the district’s continuation plan.

The plan’s general approach was to arrange elementary schools into groups and establish guidelines so that when a school became overcrowded, new students were assigned to an identified alternate school.

Caulk on Monday presided at a school board meeting for the first time since August, before he had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his sinuses.

“I’m elated to be here,” Caulk said.

He has attended meetings other than board meetings and has been working in his office.

Caulk, who was hired in late June, said his treatments had ended.

He said his entry plan to learn more about the district's needs is moving forward, with audits, surveys and meetings.

Board chairman John Price, who has not been at a meeting since October, was not at Monday’s meeting.

The specific reasons for Price’s absence were unclear, although he has said publicly that he is battling leukemia.

Caulk said in the interview that he did not want to discuss the reasons for the absences. But he said Price was staying up to date and giving feedback on board activities, reading emails and staying in contact with Caulk and board members.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears