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Committee shifts view to now support renovations at Maryville, Mt. Wash.

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RENOVATION vs. NEW SCHOOLS

By Thomas Barr

SHEPHERDSVILLE -- Any possible conflict between the Bullitt County Public School Board and the local facility planning commission appears to be over.

After originally recommending two new elementary schools be built as funds became available, the commission voted 8-4 to reverse its way to thinking.

Instead, the commission opted to follow the path recommended by the school board -- to renovate Maryville and Mount Washington elementary schools.

The decision could clear the path for the school board to begin the process of making major renovations to both schools.

Becky Sexton, assistant superintendent for support services, said the original recommendation offered by the planning group was to build a brand new Maryville Elementary. And, when bonding capacity became available in five years or so, Mount Washington Elementary would have a new facility built.

By a 3-2 vote, the school board rejected the recommendation with the hope that the commission would concern renovation.

In a presentation prepared by superintendent Keith Davis, the commission members had the chance to see the pros and cons on renovation.

A major issue is money. A new elementary school would cost in the range of $15-$16 million.

Renovations of both schools could fall into that same range.

While Maryville Elementary has property for build a new school, logistics do not work as well for Mount Washington Elementary.

There would also be at least a five-year wait for a new school in Mount Washington and Davis voiced some concern over the fairness issue.

And waiting five years would also push back needed renovations to Bullitt Lick Middle and North Bullitt High, as well as other major repair projects.

Somewhere down the line, Davis said the district will be looking at building a new high school -- with a current day price tag of $60 million.

"It comes down to a financial decision," said Davis. "Waiting means money."

At one point when the facility plan was developed about four years ago, there was state funding for more critical needs. The hope was that Maryville Elementary would score high enough to be considered for those state funds.

While it did make it on the list once, the funds have dried out and the school is not close to receiving state funds, if they were available, according to facilitator Butch Canty.

Architect Kenny Stanfield said that a major renovation requires all the systems to be replaced and must be made to last 30 years.

"Structurally, both buildings are sound," said Stanfield.

With Maryville, the concern has been with the honeycomb shape of the school, which was opened in 1972.

An open concept without interior walls was the "in thing" in education at the time.

With that in mind, Stanfield said there are challenges. Included in that challenge is finding a way to build walls and develop a hallway system, neither of which exists.

Maryville would also require a new gym to be constructed, as well as an administrative area.

The architect presented some rough ideas on what could be done both internally and externally with the school.

The entrance of the school would actually be moved to the back under the plans drafted by Stanfield.

In Mount Washington Elementary, which was opened two years later, there would be some walls built as it also adopted some part of the open classroom format.

Stanfield, whose company may or may not be the winning architect for the new schools, said that he felt with the concerns over Maryville that some needed to be presented.

With the additional space, Stanfield said Maryville could be designed to house 570 students, although enrollment is currently at 356.

Gretchen Hilbert, a committee member who teaches at Mount Washington Middle School, inquired about instruction during the year-long construction cycle.

She remembered Cedar Grove Elementary having one restroom when it underwent major renovation a few years ago.

"That is an excellent question," said Stanfield.

There are some options that could be considered.

One would be to work on four classroom areas at a time and continue to move the students to different areas.

Another would be to build the new gym first and set up temporary classrooms there while construction is being done.

Still another option is to bring in mobile classrooms.

"There's nothing perfect in renovation," said Stanfield.

With the smaller enrollment at Maryville, Stanfield said there is some extra room to move the students.

In a renovation project, there is much more planning that must be done, said Stanfield.

Canty said he understands the hesitation about renovating older schools.

But when he was serving as a superintendent, there were two older schools renovated that ended up very well.

The commission voted 8-4 in favor of altering the facilities plans and recommended major renovations for both Maryville and Mount Washington.

Canty said that will now go back to the school board. If the board approves the plan, a public hearing would be held.

After that, the board would vote again and the request would go to the state Department of Education.

Darrell Coleman, the board's representative on the committee, voted against the plan. He stated at the first meeting that he would never vote to renovate an old school.

The matter could be considered at Monday's meeting of the school board, which begins at 6 p.m. at central office. The public is invited to attend.