• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Four-year facility plan sent to school board

A proposed four-year facility plan, which includes a new 1,400-student high school as its highest priority, was sent to the Woodford County Board of Education. No one spoke during a public forum on Tuesday night prior to the Local Planning Committee (LPC) voting to send the plan to the school board. The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) would not allow the LPC to recommend a high school for 1,500 students based upon population projections. But because of new industrial businesses and 800-plus jobs coming to Woodford County as outlined in a letter from local Planning Director Pattie Wilson, KDE did support allowing the district to include a 1,400-student high school (estimated cost, $45.645 million) on its facility plan. The current enrollment at WCHS is just over 1,300 students. LPC member Rob Williams did voice concerns with being asked to support a four-year facility plan that does not consider population growth over the life of a new high school. However, district architect Margie Jacobs pointed out that a master plan would include plans for future additions to the building if growth does occur. "We've got 61 acres," said schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins, "and we intentionally purchased a tract (of land adjacent to the middle school) large enough... (for) a high school, your (outdoor) facilities and still have some room for additional (educational classroom spaces) ... if that were to be necessary." A revised facility plan also includes three components for a renovation to re-purpose the existing high school as a student learning center, bus garage/administrative offices and community education center. A cost estimate of around $6.5 million to re-purpose the high school space for those uses was bothersome to LPC member Josh McWilliams. He said local taxpayers need to know that the school district has tried to save them money in every possible way if they are going to be asked to pay higher taxes to cover the cost of building a new high school. Even though "I definitely agree that we need a new high school," McWilliams said he could not support a facility plan that includes spending nearly $7 million to renovate the current high school building for purposes that are already housed in adequate facilities. In response to those concerns, Hawkins said renovations would happen over time to minimize expenses. The sale of the current bus garage property offers an avenue to generate revenue to pay toward the cost of renovating the current high school building, he added. Most of the cost associated with re-purposing the current high school building will go toward its primary systems: HVAC, electrical and plumbing, Jacobs said. And an aging HVAC system may need to be replaced before a new high school is built, board Vice Chair Debby Edelen pointed out. Northside and Southside elementary school renovations are listed as the next highest priorities (after a new high school) on the recommended four-year facility plan. The Southside renovation would include an expansion of its cafeteria and kitchen spaces. If the Woodford County Board of Education approved a four-year facility plan at a special meeting on Wednesday, March 29 (after The Sun went to press), a public hearing will be conducted Monday, April 17, at 6:45 p.m. at Central Office, 330 Pisgah Pike. Following the public hearing, the facility plan will go to the Kentucky Board of Education for final approval.

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