Board wants to renovate schools

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Committee must meet again to consider its plan to build 2 new schools

By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - The members of the school district’s planning committee for facilities was unanimous in its conviction.

Members voted that Maryville Elementary should immediately receive a new school and that Mount Washington Elementary would be next when funding became available.

Those same members will now receive a new message from members of the Bullitt County Public School Board - get a new conviction.

The board voted 3-2 to reject the committee’s recommendation. 

Instead, the committee should consider renovating both schools and eliminating consideration of building new facilities.

In making his recommendation to the school board, superintendent Keith Davis said it would be better use of the district’s finances.

“The board has a responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayer money entrusted to them and to make tough decisions not just for today or tomorrow but for the next generation,” said Davis.

The district financing capacity is around $13 million, with a new school costing at least that much.

To renovate Maryville, Davis estimated it could be done for around $8 million, with Mount Washington costing less than that.

Davis said he also looked at the property currently owned by the district.

At Maryville, there is a possibility of building a new school behind the current facility.

At Mount Washington, it could be more difficult to build on that site.

The superintendent also mentioned the fairness factor.

If Maryville received a new facility, he couldn’t promise that Mount Washington could be done within 5-6 years.

Throw the fact that population growth in the county could necessitate a new school be built elsewhere.

On top of that, Davis said building two new schools would delay renovation work at places such as Bullitt Lick Middle and North Bullitt High.

Board members weighed in on the discussion.

Dolores Ashby experienced what a difference a renovation could make to an old school - Nichols Elementary.

Her biggest concern is that two new school might cost of $30 million. Also, she didn’t want Mount Washington to wait five years to begin work on a new school.

That would also push other renovation projects back another five years, said Ashby.

Tim Wiseheart said he would love to build new schools for both Maryville and Mount Washington; however, he didn’t think that was feasible.

“I don’t know if either school can wait five years,” said Wiseheart.

Darrell Coleman, a member of the local facility planning committee, said the group was unanimous in its support of building two new schools.

In particular, Coleman said Maryville should not have another dime spent on it. He felt a new school was definitely needed.

With the design of that school, Coleman didn’t feel it was wise to renovate.

Board member Roger Hayes, who attended the planning meeting, said even if you renovate, you still have an old building.

He mentioned the money spent on the high schools over the past few years, including $6 million college and career centers under construction at each school.

But, seeing that the board had its mind decided, Hayes said it was time to call for a vote.

Board members Lorraine McLaughlin, Ashby and Wiseheart voted to reject the recommendation and send it back to committee for recommendation. Hayes and Coleman were in opposition.

Davis said he understands the concerns about renovation. However, he said the district has had a very good track record with improving existing buildings.

The building systems must be made to last 30 years and all the latest technology must be included in the renovation package.

The superintendent was not worried about a stalemate happening between the local planning committee and the board of education.

“I believe the facilities committee understands their role and, when further information is considered, they will do the right thing,” said Davis.

If the committee does not change its recommendation, Davis said the decision will ultimately fall on the school board.

Davis said he would like to see the renovation work to begin the process immediately.

If everything got approval, he felt construction could begin next spring.

Over the years, the district has taken varied routes to improve its facilities.

Brooks Elementary was a new school as Davis said the old location was next to the interstate and beside a truck stop. Finding a new location for that school was a natural, said Davis.

At Overdale, Davis said it was a situation where the renovation was at least 80 percent of the replacement cost. This would not be approved at the state level.

While flooring issues arose at a couple of the schools, Davis said the renovation work at places such as Hebron, Cedar Grove, Lebanon Junction and Nichols had gone very well.

No meeting date has been announced for the planning committee.