Board of education votes to reconvene facilities committee

Published 10:55 am Thursday, June 2, 2022

The Clark County Public Schools Board of Education voted to reconvene its facilities committee during a two-hour work session Wednesday evening. The committee will reassemble pending Kentucky Department of Education approval to consider the best course of action for several district projects, including the long-planned new preschool.

The issue facing the committee, and the school district, is skyrocketing construction costs, especially for the celebrated preschool project that has excited both board members and parents alike.

The new preschool would be a 42,466 square foot facility that would house 350 students with space left over in case increased enrollment necessitates an expansion of the building.

According to the project’s schematic plans, the building would be designed to maximize the most efficient use of space, classrooms would be paired together to share toilet and storage spaces. Each wing would have six classrooms, meaning there would be three shared facilities. There would also be a community space in each wing for extended learning.

The board of education voted in Oct. 2020 to approve plans for the new building after pleas from the community to replace the school’s current location at 30 Beckner St., which many consider to be badly outdated. At the time of approval, construction was estimated to cost $9.3 million.

In May of 2021, the board chose a 12-acre site behind Strode Station Elementary School for the new preschool’s home over three other proposed locations.

RossTarrant, the Lexington firm hired to design the school, reported a higher estimated cost each time it updated the board on the project’s development. In January, firm representatives said that the cost had risen to $13.6 million and by late April the price tag hit $20 million.

The district has $22 million in bonding capacity–the amount of money it can seek to borrow–but board members and district officials are heistant to stretch the district’s finances with other pressing needs also on the horizon.

CCPS has several other facilities projects in the works, including a new building for the Phoenix Academy and an HVAC system replacement at Shearer Elementary School.

The board discussed several alternative plans for where to potentially house the preschool in the coming years if the new building is put on hold including sending the preschool students to different elementary schools or putting them all in an existing elementary school building and changing which grades are taught at existing schools. There was also discussion about selling different properties owned by the district to generate some of the funds needed for the preschool project.

The district still plans to solicit bids for a general contractor in the next few months so there is still hope for the new preschool to be built in the near future.