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School facilities panel approves plan for new preschool, alternative school

The Clark County School District’s preschool and alternative school may both get new homes.

Last Thursday the Local Planning Committee met and approved the district facilities plan for the next four years, which includes a new Clark County Preschool and a new Phoenix Academy, for a total cost of more than $11 million.

The preschool, which has outgrown its current location in the old Hannah McClure Elementary School building near College Park, needs a facility to accommodate 350 students now and 450 in the future.

The location of the new school, estimated to cost $9.2 million, is yet to be decided.

The Phoenix Academy at 100 Vaught Road near Robert D. Campbell Junior High School, would be relocated in a new building on the campus of George Rogers Clark High School and would cost an estimated $1.8 million. It would accommodate 60 students immediately and 90 eventually.

The new schools are the district’s top priorities for the first two years of the four-year plan.

The second two-year phase includes major renovation or additions to several facilities, including Campbell Junior High, Baker Intermediate School, and Conkwright, Strode Station, and Shearer elementary schools, and capital projects for Central Office, the special education office, the bus garage and the maintenance-information technology building, the Campbell field house, irrigation for the junior high’s football and soccer fields, and sewer, water line, drainage awning and fountain work at Conkwright.

The Board of Education is expected to consider approval of the four-year plan at its meeting tonight.

During the meeting Thursday at George Rogers Clark’s auditorium, Tim Eaton of the Kentucky School Plant Managers Association and architect Randy Brookshire led the discussion.

Ashley Ritchie, who chaired the committee meeting, asked whether the district would have the bonding capacity to build both schools, and Brookshire mentioned that another district’s bonding capacity had gone up by several million dollars because interest rates had dropped so significantly.

According to Donald Stump, the physical plant manager for the district, Clark County’s bonding capacity six months ago was said to be $11 million, but is believed to be now in the area of $15 million because of the economy, low interest rates and the fact that the district has paid off some other projects.

Superintendent Paul Christy expressed support for the plan.

“I think it’s fine the way it is,” he said Thursday. “It gives us room to maneuver with any of these. These costs are estimated costs … and those can be higher or lower depending on those bids. I think our bonding capacity is going to go up, probably enough to cover both as it is right now.”

Kara Davies, principal of the preschool, made a plea for her school, which, she said, had more than 300 students last year.

During the third and final public forum, which followed the meeting, a mother of seven school-aged children, Sherry Holbrook, said her children had benefited greatly from Clark County Preschool, including one who was a special needs student who ended up being the top-scoring student in kindergarten at the end of the testing period.

“I attribute that to the start he got at preschool,” she said.

“If there was ever a program that deserves the funding, the undying support of this community, this would be the program,” Holbrook said.

She was the only member of the public who signed up to speak at the forum.

Before the decision is final, the school board will have to hold a public hearing and the Kentucky Department of Education would have to give its final approval.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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