|LPC looking at future of district’s schools
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
The Montgomery County School District’s Local Planning Committee is trying to figure out how to shuffle the student population among the schools in preparation for future growth.
The LPC is expected to discuss potential scenarios for redistributing students to make things work during another meeting today (Thursday) at the Clay Community Center. The meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m.
At its most recent meeting Feb. 2, the LPC asked Superintendent Matt Thompson to outline the scenarios to be discussed and the ramifications of each plan.
“No matter which direction you come from there are dominoes that will fall,” Thompson told the committee.
Among some of the questions that need answering are the future of the Early Learning Center, whether Montgomery County Intermediate School will remain an intermediate school or be shifted to an elementary school, whether to return the sixth grade to McNabb Middle School, the future of the Area Technology Center and properly utilizing the space available at Camargo Elementary School. Busing also has to be considered depending on the options taken.
Thompson told the committee that there are no easy answers.
“It may be that we’re in that same quandary one to two or three years from now, but we may get more information that leads us in a certain direction,” he said.
The additional information includes the growth in student population over the next several years.
In 2016 the district had a student population of 4,819 students. By 2020 that population is expected to reach about 5,100 students based on current trends, Thompson said.
Montgomery County is one of about a third of Kentucky counties expected to grow in student population over the next several years, he said.
Thompson presented the district with a set of recommendations looking at the immediate future. The LPC is tasked with creating a District Facilities Plan to cover the next four years.
Thompson recommended listing all unmet capital construction needs as priority 2 items on the DFP. Priority 2 items can be pursued as funds become available while priority 1 projects require immediate attention.
With so much uncertainty on which direction to go, Thompson recommended listing all those items under priority 2 so they can be tackled as funds become available and the needs come more clearly into focus.
For instance, Thompson noted, the district qualifies for a new preschool building and it can be shown as an unmet need under priority 1. However, he said, limited bonding potential and current use of facilities means this may not be the only solution.
By placing the projects as priority 2 items it allows the board of education to engage in additional research and feedback from the community, Thompson said in his recommendations.
This would allow the district’s bonding potential to continue to grow in order to better meet larger construction needs in future years, the recommendations note. It also allows the board to reconvene the LPC if factors over the next few years require a change to the DFP.
A few LPC members expressed concern that with the recommendations they would have little impact on future plans for school facilities.
Don Martin, a facilitator with the Kentucky School Boards Association, assured them that they will. He said the committee has the option of listing the order of importance for the projects when listing them under priority 2.
The school board would then use their wishes as guidance in its decisions, but he urged the LPC to give the board as much flexibility as possible.
The district currently has more than $17 million in unmet needs. The current bonding potential is $8.5 million, but gains $2 million potentially each of the next two years to reach a total of $12.5 million.
Thompson said that current construction needs appear to be different than what they might be three years from now because of the number of students and how facilities are used.
Bonding out on any one project now, he said, would appear to cause major difficulties in meeting needs in a few short years.
“What our needs are now may not be the same as they will be five or six years down the road,” he told the committee.
An architect hired by the district has assessed the condition of the current school facilities and issued a report to the LPC. The report lists them on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being excellent to poor at No. 5.
Overall ratings were 5 at the ELC, 3 at Camargo Elementary, 2 at Mapleton Elementary, 2 at Mt. Sterling Elementary, 1 and 2 on different wings at McNabb Middle School, 1 through 4 based on different zones at Montgomery County High School, 4 at the ATC, 4 at the Sterling School, 3 at the maintenance building, 4 at the welding shop, 1 at the bus garage and 4 at Central Office. MCIS is essentially new and did not have any unmet needs listed.
The ATC is actually run by the state, but the district provides and maintains the facility.
The district receives money from the state to take care of the facility. The district has been setting aside that money for eventual renovation of the center.
LPC members Elizabeth Davis and Ray Robertson both said that they have heard several comments in the community about keeping MCIS as an intermediate school, which they characterized as a successful bridge between the elementaries and middle school.
Davis said she had also heard comments about keeping the ELC.
The LPC is expected to hold several more meetings before submitting the DFP to the Kentucky Board of Education by April for approval.