To the citizens of Scott County,
I appreciate the recent letter from Rick Thompson and his concern about the progress of facilities to provide public education in Scott County. I want to take this opportunity to make clear where the school Board is in terms of ECS and a second high school. I remember hearing about the site of the new high school before I was on the Board. My understanding was that the first building was the beginning of a larger building plan. The nature of this building plan and the developing ideas around the second high school are, I believe, the source of confusion. So I have sorted out, to the best of my ability, where we are where we are going.
First, let me begin by acknowledging the difference between a conceptual plan for a facility and how that turns into construction plans, which is the acknowledgment in the District Facility Plan (DFP) verses action by the Board of Education to authorize the design and construction of a facility. When the land where ECS is located was first acquired, the Board acknowledged that it was large enough to accommodate a second high school. In fact, on June 14, 2005 the School Board requested an amendment to the 2002 DFP, stating the following: "Purchase a site to be used for the construction of a Career and Technology Center which will become the first phase of a future high school to be constructed in Scott County on the site when enrollment figures dictate." And, again, it was included in the 2006 DFP: "Construct a new facility to accommodate Career Technical and Performing Arts for 500 students, which will operate as a SCHS magnet, until such time as enrollment dictates additional additions, after which it would become the second high school for the district. Site - property on U.S. 460, west of Georgetown."
The Career and Technical center that moved from conception to construction was a development from this plan, but it became something different than just a traditional vocational wing of a high school. Rather, the idea of a new kind of school with focus areas and student/teacher interaction developed, and this change shaped the school that was built. While there was a conceptual plan of ECS as a beginning phase of a full high school, the plan the Board voted on, including Mr. Conway and Ms Sams, was for a stand-alone facility which would serve not only the future second high school, but also continue serving students from SCHS.
When the 2010 DFP was created, again the construction of a new high school was included: "1,250 student capacity adjacent to Elkhorn Crossing School." However, the Local Planning Committee, after completing their research of current and projected enrollments, felt the need for a new elementary school came before the need to initiate the start of a new high school project. This recommended DFP was approved by the School Board including myself, Mr. Conway and Ms Sams, Kentucky Department of Education staff, and the Kentucky School Board.
In his letter to the News Graphic last week Mr. Thompson quotes facilities director Mike Luscher saying that the new facility “will be built in several phases but eventually it will phase into a second high school.” Mr. Thompson and Mr. Luscher are correct. Elkhorn Crossing School was built with bigger things in mind. Mr. Thompson is incorrect when he says that these plans have been forgotten, or when he suggests that the School Board has intentionally changed its “plan of record” for the new high school. There were no developed plans for a second high school of which the current ECS was an initial phase. other than a schematic drawing based upon the general educational program guidelines, to ensure the placement of ECS was correctly "sited.". The idea that a new high school will be built on this site is what we are currently pursuing, but we want to make sure that ECS in its unique role of providing career and technical education will be available to all students in the county, whether they attend SCHS or a new high school.
I also appreciate Mr. Thompson’s interest in the funding for new school development, and perhaps here we have a difference of opinion. We know we need more space for our high school students and for all of our students. The Board moved the first two items, the new elementary school and the SCHS cafeteria expansion, on the DFP from concept to construction. These projects are completed or on their way to completion. There is a clear consensus among the Board to now focus our efforts on the high school as funds come available. Mr. Thompson thinks we can provide the facility we need with current tax rates in a timely manner. That is a decision this community will have to make. If we devote all of our construction resources to the new high school it will probably be a decade before it is completed. And this doesn’t take into account other needs that may arise. Our capital funding is based upon such factors as increasing enrollments, population and property assessment growth in our county, and funds from State sources. Our choice for our children and the next generation of citizens is whether this drawn out plan is the best way to provide public education in Scott County. We will have to consider options and make a decision together about how we need to gather resources to fund our construction needs.
I welcome any questions or comments about the development of ECS from its initial phase to its current form, and how this facility will be utilized and positioned in relation to a new high school. There are no hidden plans, no forgotten plans, and no deception in this process. Previous Boards made the best decisions they could in building ECS, and the current Board has the same intention – to make the best possible decisions to provide the resources and space for public education for Scott County.
Dr. Roger Ward
Chair, Scott County Board of Education