Two potential agenda items to discuss the renovation of George Rogers Clark High School and Clark County Middle School were tabled by a 3-2 vote by the Clark County Board of Education Tuesday night.
The items, which would have set the renovation amounts for turning GRC into a middle school and Clark Middle into an elementary school, were removed from the agenda for discussion early in the meeting.
Judy Hicks moved to accept the agenda with the two items. Beth Griffith supplied a second to the motion, but Michael Kuduk, Michael McGowan and Ashley Ritchie voted against the measure.
McGowan made the motion to accept the agenda without the items with Ritchie giving a second. The motion carried 3-2 with Hicks and Griffith voting against. This tables the discussion until at least April.
Prior to the second vote, Clark County Schools Superintendent Elaine Farris warned the board that changes to the district’s facilities plan have to be approved by the Kentucky Department of Education.
She also warned about the academic impact of keeping Conkwright Middle School students in GRC while waiting for enough bonding potential to build a new school.
“The parents of students at Conkwright Middle School need to understand they will be in George Rogers Clark High School with absolutely no renovation, no updated technology,” Farris said. “I think the community needs to understand what this board decision is going to mean in the long term. If you’re talking about bonding capacity, it would take you five years to have enough bonding to do something other than what’s on your facility plan at this time.
“It will have an impact on academics and it would create inequality to have that school sit there for five years with no renovation.”
The district’s facilities plan calls for the student populations from Conkwright and Clark middle schools to be combined and moved to the current GRC building. Clark Middle School will then be renovated as an elementary school. The new GRC facility is scheduled to open in August for the new school year.
McGowan said the board hasn’t had enough time to make a decision on the renovations yet.
Just prior to the regular meeting’s adjournment, Farris asked the board what information it needed in theApril meeting to bring the two items back.
Kuduk told Farris he would respond to her in a couple days, but Farris reminded him that this is a board decision and not to be made by one person.
“If there was a reason for tabling it, I’d like to hear why we tabled it,” Hicks said. “What are we considering further?”
“One of my concerns is that by approving these, we’re exhausting the district’s bonding capacity,” Kuduk said. “Our district facilities plan calls for a $34 million to be put in to that school for renovation totally.
One of my big concerns is when, where and how are we going to get the rest of the $18 million.”
Griffith said that over the next five years the bonding capacity would increase and the renovations couldbe done in phases to complete the project.
Farris explained that the architects had presented the renovations in phases, with different areas being finished in stages.
“You’re not going to have $34 million bonding potential for another five years,” Farris said. “If you don’t do anything, that means Conkwright sits in that building with totally no renovation for five more years.”
Farris reminded the board that the current facilities plan says the district will renovate the high school to be a middle school.
“That’s the plan you’re operating from now,” she said.
McGowan asked if when the plan was approved if the total cost was taken into account.
“I’m wondering if they didn’t think this all the way through,” he said. “It seems like they made a decision to do all these schools and at the end, they didn’t figure out how much this is going to cost.”
Farris said those things were considered.
“Two different groups of people — one group did it in 2007, which was a committee and a new group in 2011 — and they both came up with the same plan,” Farris said. “That was community input — by statute you had to involve those kinds of people representing their constituents and their community.”
Farris suggested looking at the minutes from 2007 for historical perspective.
The board decided they needed more information about the bonding potential and the availability of funds before making a decision.
“I would recommend you hear from the architect,” Farris added. “You’re paying him. ... They can provide the service. At least let them come in and tell you what’s on (the plan) whether you choose to do it or not.”
Ritchie asked where Conkwright would be in GRC. Farris said if the board elected to not have renovations in the building, the students could be anywhere. If renovations were approved, the architect would have areas marked off for renovations which would limit the area where the students would be.
Farris again warned the board about the potential loss of $16.7 million, which was given by the state to the district to remove Category 5 schools, or those in a state of “urgent need.” That money was given based on the current facilities plan and deviating from that plan could jeopardize that money.
“You can’t write a check tomorrow for $16.7 million,” Farris said.
“There’s a process they have to go through to alter the facilities plan,” Kay Kennedy of KDE said in February. “It’s speculative at this point, but in the event they take money under one set of expectations then do something else with it, it’s not a big jump that you would have to forfeit.”
Contact Casey Castle at firstname.lastname@example.org.