Graves County Elementary School hosted the third Local Planning Committee (LPC) meeting Tuesday, where community members, teachers, principals and parents were tasked with ranking the district’s most important needs.
The committee deliberated for more than an hour before deciding whether Lowes Elementary, Graves County Middle School, or Graves County High School should be categorized as Priority 1 on the new District Facilities Plan (DFP). Ultimately, they settled on the middle school and high school as Priority 1, and relegated Lowes to Priority 2.
Superintendent Matthew Madding said no formal decision has been made by the committee yet and several levels of approval need to be passed before the 2020 DFP is official.
“When the committee does make a formal decision, that will then get presented to the board,” he said. If the committee lists Lowes as a Priority 2, the board could agree with that and approve the DFP, or they could disagree, make recommendations, and send the DFP back to the LPC committee for revision, Madding added.
The DFP would also need approval from the Kentucky Department of Education.
Should the Graves County Board of Education and KDE approve their draft, the facilities will be listed by priority on the upcoming DFP, which serves as a guide that the board can use over the course of the next four years, until the next LPC is assembled to create a new four-year DFP.
Facilities and their respective issues listed under Priority 1 must be addressed by the board within the first two years of the DFP. Those listed under Priority 2 must be addressed in the two years after that. These are the first two categories out of five, and consist of the most urgent of the district’s needs.
That does not mean every issue — if any — will be solved at any given facility, regardless of prioritization. A lack of funding prevented any of Lowes’ issues from being addressed on the 2016 DFP, which would have cost approximately $5,951,427. Lowes’ total has now ballooned to $9,232,517 in the upcoming 2020 DFP.
There were no Priority 1 items on the 2016 DFP as the previous LPC ranked the biggest issues as equally important under Priority 2. However, Randy Brookshire, the senior principal at RossTarrant Architects, told the committee that KDE is “cracking down” on that practice, and that they must select at least one facility for Priority 1.
RossTarrant Architects’ assessments show the high school projected at $12,993,834, and the middle school projected at $4,262,400 for every issue to be fixed. However, unlike Lowes, LPC determined only one major issue for each facility needed immediate action from the board: the roof at the high school ($2,157,021), and the HVAC system at the middle school ($2,367,100).
Madding noted that repairing the middle school’s HVAC system would incur more costs due to the need for replacing the ceiling, lighting, among other things as the project progresses.
By listing these facilities as Priority 1, they reasoned the board could act quickly on them both and prevent each from falling into the same situation as Lowes. Fixing those issues would also cost significantly less than Lowes total repairs.
The committee acknowledged that Lowes has serious needs and most of them initially desired to place it in the Priority 1 category. However, a number of other logistical roadblocks changed their minds over the course of the meeting.
Madding said KDE prefers an enrollment of 300 students or more to proceed with projects. Given Lowes’ current enrollment of 218, the facility would be a “candidate” for renovation. However, the elementary school as a whole is in such a state that Brookshire told the committee that KDE would not approve any renovations if the costs exceed 80% of the total for building an entirely new facility, which is the case for Lowes.
Madding also informed the committee that tackling Lowes would limit the board’s ability to tackle the roof at the high school, and HVAC system at the middle school.
“If we even touch Lowes, we’ve exhausted our (bonding) capacity,” Madding said.