LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 17, 2013) – The Fayette County Board of Education has voted unanimously to spend $5.6 million to buy 49 acres of land in east Lexington’s Hamburg area in order to build a sixth high school and address explosive enrollment growth. With a total project cost of $75.8 million, including the cost of the land, the new school is expected to open in the fall of 2017 with a capacity of 1,800 students.
With an official address of 1970 Winchester Road, the land sits on the east side of Winchester Road, between the Summerfield subdivision and Sir Barton Way.
“This site is located perfectly to be able to relieve the crowding at Henry Clay High School and accommodate the housing boom in the area of town between Richmond and Winchester Roads,” Fayette County Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton said.
The project timeline calls for a 14-month design phase beginning this spring, with construction to start in July of 2015 for a completion date prior to the start of school in 2017.
“Our schools are already overcrowded so we’re on a very aggressive timeline to complete this school,” Shelton said. “This is a very large project. We need to get this done as quickly as we possibly can.”
A decade ago, the average enrollment in the district’s five high schools was 1,720. This year, the average enrollment is 2,034. Collectively, the district’s five high schools house 1,458 students more than they were built to educate – almost enough to fill the new school that is still more than three years away from opening.
Student enrollment in the Fayette County Public Schools has grown rapidly from 34,688 students 10 years ago to 40,109 this school year. In recent years that growth has been roughly 750 students each year – which would be the equivalent of a new elementary school if the students were all concentrated in a single area. The district facilities plan, calling for six new schools and the renovation of 15 existing schools, was adopted by the school board earlier this year.
“Our goal is to get ahead of the growth so we have capacity to manage over a period of time,” Shelton said. “We don’t want to be reactive to the growth. We want to get ahead of that curve.”
Shelton noted that in addition to building a sixth traditional high school, the district facilities plan calls for the construction of a 600-student high school to house the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) Academy, expansion of the district’s technical centers, and renovations that will add capacity at Henry Clay, Lafayette, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek high schools.
The newest high school building is Bryan Station High School, which was replaced in 2007. The last time the district built an entirely new high school was in 1990 with the opening of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
“This will initiate a major redistricting effort throughout the entire county as we look at what schools will feed into our new high school,” Shelton said. “With the land identified for two new elementary schools, and plans for one more elementary school and a new middle school, this will be a major process that will look at all of our schools and consider how we can maximize efficiencies and utilize all of our buildings to do what’s right for kids.”
The redistricting process will begin in earnest after the start of the new year, Shelton said. “There will be many opportunities for public involvement and input,” he said. “Together we’ll come up with a plan that makes sense to our entire community and to all of our constituents.”
The district will pay for the project with facilities funding that can only be used for capital projects, including state dollars, local property tax revenues and the sale of school construction bonds.