• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Board approves schematic design for new high school

The Woodford County Board of Education approved the schematic design for a new 1,350-student high school at its regular meeting Monday. Board member Sherri Springate was the lone “no” vote on Dani Bradley’s motion to approve the design. Prior to its action to approve the design, Springate said she was troubled by a process that ultimately allowed 10 people on a steering committee to choose the schematic design for a new Woodford County High School. She said it’s important to have public forums leading up to the approval of a design because taxpayers are paying for a new school. In response, project architect Kevin Locke and other board members said all of the committee’s meetings were open to the public and teachers at WCHS were asked for their input on the building’s design. Additionally, Bradley said a forum hosted by the steering committee seeking input on the design of a new high school “was very well attended.” She agreed that it was important to have more forums to get additional input from parents and others in the community. “It’s extremely misleading to the public to keep repeating that only 10 people have made this decision,” said board member Allison Richardson of Springate’s comments. She said people did have an opportunity to attend the open meetings held by the steering committee. Several WCHS teachers served on the 10-person steering committee, but Locke acknowledged an engineering teacher did bring a design concern to the committee’s attention. He described that as a “natural part of the process.” The schematic design approved by the board included a full-size, competition gymnasium that will seat 1,900 to 2,000 people, Lock told board members. The new high school’s first floor includes a media center, cafeteria and common area that will serve as focal points of a “learning street,” with spaces for an auditorium, culinary arts, industrial arts, technical education, social studies, Locke said. The school’s second floor features three science labs, and has wings for English and math classrooms, he said. The approved schematic design will now be forwarded to KDE for review, Locke said. He described the schematic design for the high school as the first of three submittals that will be presented to the local board. Design development and construction documents will also be presented for approval, he said. “This is a fluid process,” said Bradley. “This is the first step, but this plan will be revised and amended several times over the next however many months. “And I absolutely agree that we do need to have a community forum and show these drawings and hear the feedback and ideas. And that is still completely feasible going forward.” The board later came to a consensus to schedule a forum to get public input on a new high school in mid-January with Thursday, Jan. 16, and Thursday, Jan. 23, being considered as possible dates. During the public comment portion of the meeting, parent Sarah McCoun said it’s very important for the board to get public input on the design of a new high school. She also voiced concern that the board did not have a public forum to get that input before being asked to approve the design for a new high school on Monday. “I also wonder if we have an idea of what we can afford,” said McCoun. “How can we approve a design without a for sure cost? So those are questions I’d like to have answered tonight and for the board to consider before they vote on approving a schematic design this evening.” The estimated cost of a new high school as presented in the schematic design was $48 million, Locke said. The board has thus far only approved documents seeking KDE approval for a $36 million project, Chief Operating Officer Amy Smith said. Board attorney In addressing a concern expressed by McCoun last month about the board hiring an attorney to handle superintendent issues, Springate said the board has paid attorney Joshua M. Salsburey $11,773.80 through the end of November. “This sum of money is very concerning to me also,” said Springate. “I have asked for and analyzed the itemized bills from the last four months and some alarming facts came to light.” She said nearly half of the 45 communications with the attorney involved one or two board members. “I have only participated in one of these 45 separate communications,” she added. Springate noted that over $3,000 has been spent to have Salsburey attend board meetings “with no designated purpose.” In questioning why other board members have met with Salsburey outside of board meetings, Springate said, “School board attorneys represent the school board as a body – not individual members.” She then called for “complete transparency” by asking for a summary of all of Salsburey’s communications with board members over the past four months, a summary of all future communications between a board member and Salsburey, and a protocol for communicating with board attorneys to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Travel request The board did not approve a travel request for Elaine Bailey, Woodford County schools communications officer, to attend “family engagement in education” training at Harvard University after Springate’s motion died for a lack of a second. In her eight years on the board, Springate said, she did not recall the board ever denying a travel request. She wondered aloud if there was an objection to the cost ($3,500 out of its federal Title 1 funding). “I push for family involvement always,” said board Vice Chair Debby Edelen. “So it’s just a matter of how we spend it. Is it going to get the most bang for the buck?” Richardson said she didn’t support sending an employee to a training that has nothing to do with her job description. It makes more sense to send a family resource center person who has a lot of involvement with families in the schools, she explained. 2020-21 school calendar The board unanimously approved a 2020-21 instructional calendar, with the school year beginning Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 and ending Tuesday, May 25, 2021 (subject to change based on a need for makeup dates). Fall break will be Oct. 5 to 9, winter break will be Dec. 19 to Jan. 3 and spring break will be March 29 to April 2 on the instructional calendar recommended by the district calendar committee and approved by the board.

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