by Mandy McLaren, Louisville Courier Journal –
Take a look at the ‘Backpack of Success Skills’ that JCPS is rolling out for the 2018-19 school year.Mandy McLaren and Jeff Faughender, Courier Journal
This story is developing and may be updated.
Faced with aging facilities and overcrowded buildings, Jefferson County Public Schools wants to build one new middle school and three new elementary schools by 2024.
Chief Operations Officer Mike Raisor, who presented an initial plan to the JCPS school board Tuesday evening, said new construction will restore staff and student pride.
“A new building doesn’t raise test scores, but it sure doesn’t hurt them,” Raisor said, noting that JCPS buildings are, on average, nearly 60 years old.
In addition to the new schools, the district will also consider moving its central offices and undertaking comprehensive renovations of its flagship buildings.
Here’s what you need to know:
Why is the district proposing construction now?
Since being named permanent superintendent in February, Marty Pollio has said breaking ground on new schools will be a district priority under his watch.
On Tuesday, Raisor told board members that five East End middle schools — Carrithers, Crosby, Ramsey, Kammerer and Westport — are each at or above capacity. And because the buildings are in the same end of the county, redrawing boundary lines won’t solve the problem, he said.
As for the district’s elementary schools, several are under-enrolled and so old that it “doesn’t make financial sense” to renovate them, Raisor said.
“Generation after generation, we have simply remodeled buildings instead of replacing them,” he said.
Raisor proposed combining elementary schools into newly constructed buildings. Six existing schools could be combined into three new buildings by fall of 2024, he said.
What schools will be affected?
Raisor told board members he could think of ten schools “off the top of (his) head” that would be appropriate for the plan, but he told the Courier Journal that he could not yet share the names of those schools.
When constructing new facilities, Raisor said the district will take multiple measures into account, including urban renewal.
“We’re going to make sure, by the time a five year plan is done, we’ve touched in a positive way each part of the county,” Raisor said.
How will JCPS pay for the new schools?
Raisor told board members that new construction would save the district in the long-run on such fixed costs as utilities and maintenance.
He also said the district could free up $50 million in bonding capacity by scrapping a plan to renovate its offices at the VanHoose Education Center on Newburg Road and the Lam Building on Bishop Lane.
Raisor called the VanHoose building, in particular, a “ticking time bomb” of inefficiency and said it should have been renovated two decades ago. By abandoning the aging office buildings, the district could direct more of its bonding capacity toward construction of new schools, he said.
Under the plan, JCPS would sell or repurpose the VanHoose building and seek a managed lease for office space at a new, energy-efficient building, Raisor said.
What schools might see renovations under the plan?
When Pollio started teaching in 1997 at the building that now houses the Academy @ Shawnee, the third floor was condemned. More than two decades later, the third floor of the west Louisville school is still closed off to students and staff.
That’s something that needs to change, Pollio said Tuesday.
The district’s flagship schools, including Shawnee and duPont Manual High School, would be “revitalized” by comprehensive renovations under the plan presented by Raisor. Those schools have “good bones” but are in dire need of an update, he said.
Before shovels can hit the dirt, JCPS must finalize a detailed construction and renovation plan — a goal Raisor said the district hopes to accomplish by December 2020.
JCPS’ newest school, Norton Commons Elementary, opened in 2016 with a price tag of $15 million. That building features several energy-efficient elements Raisor said would be included in future construction, including motion-activated LED lights and geothermal heating and cooling.