For our district, the local planning committee is comprised of 20 members who must live in the district — four teachers, four parents, four building-level administrators, three community leaders, one district facilities director, one Central Office staff person, one board member, one local planning and zoning official, and the superintendent who serves as a non-voting member. Teachers select the teacher members, parents select the parent members, and administrators select the administrator members.
Even though a district facility plan is developed for four years, it is virtually impossible to complete all of the projects within the four years. The LPC is advised to list and prioritize all facility needs of the district on the plan. Projects that are not accomplished within a current facility plan are often carried over into the next four-year plan.
In fall 2006 and winter/spring 2007, a four-year district facility plan was developed. Prior to the work on that plan, the Kentucky Department of Education advised that the Clark County school district had been placed on the state’s financial watch list, that the district could not afford to operate the current number of schools, and that the new facility plan should assure adequacy, equity and economy for district facilities for all students.
The resulting plan called for the top priority to be a new high school to replace the current George Rogers Clark High School building; convert the current GRC building to become the district middle school by combining the school populations from Conkwright Middle and Clark Middle schools; Conkwright and Clark Middle to become elementary schools and Hannah McClure Elementary to become a pre-school facility.
Fannie Bush, Central, Pilot View, Providence and Trapp elementary schools were declared transitional schools (schools to be closed, and no capital outlay or construction funds could be spent on them). A new elementary school and the two middle school buildings would house the elementary populations from the transitional schools and Hannah McClure.
The process involved in developing the 2007 plan included 29 public LPC meetings, forums and hearings. The plan was approved by a majority of the board in March 2007 and April 2007 and by the Kentucky Department of Education in June 2007. The plan was challenged in Franklin County Circuit Court in fall 2007; in fall 2008, the court ruled that the district facility plan implementation could proceed. Another vote on implementation of the plan occurred in April 2009 and a majority of that board approved proceeding with the plan.
In spring and fall of 2011, the current district facility plan was developed by a newly formed LPC. This plan continues the elements of the 2007 plan that were not completed during that four-year period and also addresses the facility changes brought about by the $19 million special construction funding approved by the Kentucky General Assembly for the Clark County Public Schools.
That funding provides revenue for new and newly renovated facilities to replace the three state-designated Category 5 elementary schools in the district. The planning process included 12 public LPC meetings, forums andhearings. The current plan was approved by a majority of the board in November 2011 and by the Kentucky Department of Education in February 2012.
On a personal note, even though I supported approval of the 2011 (current) facility plan, I did not support the 2007 facility plan on any of the multiple votes taken by multiple boards. My opposition to that plan was based on several reasons:
— The belief that the highest priority should have been facilities to replace the aging elementary schools, some of which had been the top priorities on previous facility plans.
— The belief that a new high school would exhaust the district’s bonding and borrowing capacity, and it would be many years before facilities for the aging elementary schools could be addressed.
— The belief that the small, high-performing community schools should be maintained.
— The belief that moving forward with the new high school planning without understanding and discussing options for the current high school building was short-sighted .
— The concern about documentation indicating that legal requirements set forth in the regulations related to developing the plan were not followed.
Following the court ruling on implementing the 2007 plan and the final April 2009 vote on that plan, I have supported the board majority in implementing the board-approved and the state-approved plan.
Once the court opinion was delivered, the right thing to do was to follow the board policy related to accepting the will of the majority vote and supporting the resulting decisions. I have continued to work with the other board members on plan implementation.
Most of the reasons for opposition to the 2007 plan were addressed by the $19 million special construction funding approved by the legislature for the aging elementary buildings. In addition, the district was authorized to participate in the Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) program, which allowed the board to utilize interest-free bonds for facility construction, greatly reducing the cost of borrowing.
Several elementary buildings that are scheduled to close are high-performing schools where students perform very well. Providing the number of schools required for all students to be accommodated in smaller buildings is virtually impossible with our current revenue and funding structure, at both the local and state levels—and would not be in accordance with state regulations. The board, the superintendent, and district personnel are committed to continuing the academic excellence of these students for all students in all buildings across the district.
Multiple opinions have been expressed regarding the district facility plans. The preceding discussion is an attempt to provide factual information related to the development and implementation of the plans based on state regulations.