LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A new middle school in northeast Lexington moved one step closer to reality Monday night when the Fayette County Board of Education voted unanimously to authorize the purchase of roughly 20 acres of land on Squires Road from the Kentucky American Water Company at a cost of $103,000 per acre.
“Land is hard to come by here in Fayette County and we are thankful that the water company had the foresight to identify suitable property for a new school in a developing area like this one,” said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk. “As a growing district we have to be diligent about staying ahead of new housing construction while also ensuring that we are taking care of our existing buildings.”
Over the past decade, Fayette County Public Schools has grown by roughly 500 to 700 students per year. The Richmond Road corridor outside of Man o’ War Boulevard is among the fastest growing parts of town.
“Today’s board decision will help us keep pace with the ongoing housing construction in northeast Lexington,” Caulk said. “We don’t want to be reactive; our goal is to stay ahead of the expansion.”
The newest middle school building in the district is Edythe J. Hayes Middle School, which opened in August of 2004. Since that time, major renovations have been completed at four other middle schools, including Bryan Station, Jessie Clark, Leestown and Tates Creek middle.
The purchase will not be final until after the district completes several due diligence steps and receives final approval from the Kentucky Department of Education. If all goes well, the district will pay for the land with roughly $2.06 million in facilities funding that can only be used for capital projects, specifically, residuals from existing school construction bonds.
The land is located in a portion of northeast Lexington called the Peninsula because it is surrounded on three sides by a Kentucky American Water reservoir. With an official address on Squires Road, the land for the planned new middle school is in the center of the peninsula. Current plans estimate a 110,521 square foot middle school to house 900 students would cost $25.9 million to build. The district is revising those estimates to expand capacity in order to make room for 1,000 students.
Since the community supported a nickel property tax increase in 2007 dedicated solely to facilities, Fayette County has built five new schools and renovated 21 others.
“We have demonstrated our commitment to renovate existing buildings while also constructing new schools to address enrollment growth,” Caulk said.
The district’s 2017 facilities plan calls for two new elementary schools, a new middle school and a building for STEAM Academy. The district is in the design phase for one of those new elementary schools and recently acquired property to provide a permanent home for STEAM.
The plan also calls for major renovations of 17 facilities, including the expansion of the district’s technical centers, and wholesale renovations at Henry Clay, Lafayette, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek high schools and three middle schools.
Chief Operating Officer Myron Thompson said timelines on those projects should be available in the next few months.
“We are currently working to prioritize those needs and determine available bonding capacity in order to develop a more specific timeline to guide projects over the four year span of the facilities plan,” Thompson said.