BOE’s Key skeptical of need for new elementary school

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 4:45pm
By: Kevin Wandra

The Fayette County Board of Education met at a work session Monday, and it discussed possibly delaying the construction of a new elementary school at the Sandy Creek Road, Tillman Road school site.

“I want to see some numbers that we need another new elementary school up close and personal,” board member Marion Key said. “I don’t want to open another school and see it empty. I know our student population is not going up as it has in the past. It only went up by 30 students last year.”

Actually, the increase in Fayette County’s elementary school population was even more than Key stated. Between 2005-06 and 2006-07, the county’s elementary school population increased by 159 students.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Sam Sweat differed with Key, saying student registrations have risen significantly this summer, though he didn’t provide any numbers.

“We’ve had some of the largest enrollments we’ve ever had this summer,” Sweat said. “I have some concerns the numbers will be higher in the fall.”

DeCotis presented the board with a list of advantages and disadvantages of delaying the school construction project.

There are four advantages: a possible increase in interest earnings on invested bond funds; the possibility of opening the school with more students due to another year of growth; the possibility of earning more state dollars if schools have higher usage rates or fuller capacities; and possible savings for a year or two on operational costs associated with an additional building.

There are six disadvantages: possible arbitrage penalties for interest earnings; the possibility of exceeding the required time-line for expenditure of bond funds (three years); A.R.C. projects the county population to possibly double by 2040, requiring additional classroom space in the future; a delay in construction will increase construction costs for the school; more students will have to be moved or be moved twice if both new schools are not considered in the current elementary rezoning process; and community members have expressed the need for the school system to open schools with capacity so that the school system would not open new elementary schools with the need for trailers as it has in some years past.

“No matter what we choose to do, there are consequences,” DeCotis said. “We have to weigh all our options.”

The school at the Sandy Creek Road-Tillman Road school site is scheduled to open in 2009. It’s the second elementary school slated to open in Fayette County in the next two years; the other, Inman Elementary, is on schedule to open next year.

The board will address the issue further at a 7 p.m. meeting on Aug. 16.

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