HARRODSBURG — After rejecting the Local Planning Committee’s proposal earlier this month regarding the closure of a school, Mercer County Board of Education voted Thursday night on its own proposal.
In a 3-2 vote, the board approved a plan that would ultimately close Mercer County Intermediate School on Lexington Street. Board members Larry Yeager and Pattie Burke voted “no.”
The proposal, which the LPC will review next week, calls for Harlow Early Learning Center to house preschool to kindergarten. This is different from the initial LPC plan, which had proposed the closure of Harlow, which some of the board members were against.
Mercer County Elementary School would house only first and second grades. King Middle School would become home to third through fifth grades. The 9th Grade Academy would hold sixth through eighth grades. Finally, the Mercer County Senior High would be expanded to add ninth-grade students. The current Mercer County Intermediate School would be slated to close.
Despite the closure of Mercer County Intermediate School, the central office, which is also in part of the building, would remain in the current location.
The board also included a timeline in the proposal. It calls everyone to remain in their current locations during the 2013-2014 school year, to allow for construction of a ninth-grade wing at the high school.
Mercer Central Alternative and the Day Treatment schools were both absent from the list, as noted by Burke.
“We have a couple of facilities that you could look at,” Superintendent Dennis Davis said. He confirmed that there would be enough space for Mercer Central Alternative and Day Treatment schools to be housed on the second floor at the Mercer County Board of Education offices, formerly Harrodsburg High School.
He also posed the idea of renovating the old field house, located on the campus of the former Mercer County High School, now home to the 9th Grade Academy. This could only house the Day Treatment School, as there would not be enough room for Mercer Central Alternative School.
Burke voted “no” for “financial reasons,” which she said included the addition of the ninth-grade wing onto the high school.
“We are in a depressed economy. We are having reduced state funding, reduced federal funding. We don’t know what KSBIT’s going to want from us yet,” she said.
KSBIT refers to the Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust, a self-insurance fund, ensuring part ownership to every member. At some point, the membership list has included every school district in Kentucky since its inception in 1978.
On Jan. 14, it was announced that KSBIT would be closing and districts that had participated in the Workers' Compensation Pool from 1990 to 2011 and the Property and Liability Pool from 1993 to 2012 would be required to pay. It is still unknown how much this will cost any school.
According to Mercer County officials, the school system also must cover any monies owed by the Harrodsburg Independent school system, since Mercer incurred that debt during the merger of the two districts in 2006.
Ruth Ann Cocanougher, director of finance for the district, said some money could be bonded for use on the buildings, up to $2.7 million, as well as tapping into money from the state.
For Yeager, the reasons to veto the board proposal were academic, specifically, the ninth-grade students.
“I see good things at that school every day I go in there,” he said of the 9th Grade Academy. “The high school is struggling with their test scores already, we put that many more kids over there they’re going to struggle even more. Let’s not make that move until they get on their feet at the high school.”
There was also discussion among the board regarding the potential expansion of Moberly Road, which runs through the school campus. According to Davis, officials are expected to observe traffic on the road next week, however, there are no known details on when the project could start.