Thursday, February 23, 2017

Educators to launch campaign on need for school construction

A  facilities plan approved for Crittenden County Schools shows current district property at the middle and high school campus highlighted in yellow with the state highway maintenance facility property that should eventually belong to the school district highlighted in red. The 70-year-old segment of the current middle school would be razed and a new high and middle school wings would eventually be added to Rocket Arena along with shared facilities between the two schools,

FROM FEB. 16, 2017
When the calendar rolls over to March, Crittenden County School District will kick off a campaign to change the future of education in the county.

Starting next month, the district is planning to begin a series of efforts to inform the community on the nuances of proposed school construction to modernize and expand the halls of learning. Superintendent Vince Clark said the rollout will include a variety of materials aimed at explaining the local building need and the board of education’s proposal for a solution. The initial phase of the campaign will include short YouTube videos posted on the district’s website and a survey so that educators can address questions the public may have.

“We need to educate the (county’s) 9,500 people on what we are looking at and what our options are,” Clark said.

What is being eyed is a $31.2 million school facilities plan approved late last year by the board of education. It first calls for construction of a new high school that would allow middle-schoolers currently cramped into a 70-year-old building to then move into the current high school. Adding a wing onto Rocket Arena to serve as a new high school would cost more than $12 million and would call for a tax increase to get construction accomplished anytime within the next 10 years.

The board of education and district administrators appear to be taking a thoughtful approach toward taxpayers who would fund any construction. That is why they want to present their plan online, in print and in person to accommodate everyone in the community who may have questions or input on the proposal. A public forum is tentatively set for March 14.

“There are so many different ways to communicate and (ways) people get their
news,” Clark said.

A second phase of the campaign would start after the school district gathers and weighs all the initial input and concerns from the public.

The board of education is aware that a tax increase could be hard to swallow by taxpayers, particularly a 5-cent increase on the current rate of 46.3 cents per $100 of real estate. That construction nickel would match another already built into the tax rate and free up state matching funds to bring the district’s bonding potential high enough to build a new school.

The average Kentuckian pays about 62 cents per $100 of real estate to school districts, and local officials are hoping to convey to the public that they would still be getting a relative bargain for their tax burden while improving educational opportunities to future generations.

Any tax increase by the five-member board would be subject to recall by voters, so before moving on such a decision, they want to put their best foot forward.
“We’ve got one shot at getting this right the first time,” said board member Eric Larue.

Clark expects to learn from those who have failed and those who have succeeded in urging voters that education is a community responsibility. In fact, he has already spoken with school officials in Marion County, where a second nickel was recently approved by voters, and those from Hancock County, where the construction nickel was shot down at the polls.

The superintendent said multiple forums may be scheduled over the next couple of months to keep the public in the conversation.

“This will give people a chance to hear the plan presented and give folks time to ask questions to help the community understand where we’re at,” explains Clark. “We want to be as transparent as we can be.”

As a stopgap measure to help a middle school building bursting at the seams, the CCMS library will be combined with the high school’s before the 2017-18 school year. To accommodate, a portion of the CCHS library at the front of the building will be walled off over summer break to provide separate study areas for students from the two schools. Also, to provide a noise buffer, the entire library will be glassed in to the ceiling above the concrete half-walls, and doors will be installed at the two entrances from the hallway. The projected cost is about $96,500.

The middle school library will be turned into space for classroom instruction to accommodate next year’s incoming sixth-grade class of 137 students, which is about 40 more than the average class size.