GLASGOW — The Barren County School System is gearing up to start work on its next local facilities plan, the document that will outline facility projects for the school district over the next four to five years.
That work began Monday with a state required training session for the school district’s local planning committee.
The LPC is composed of 20 people, which is a combination of teachers, parents, school administrators, community members and one person with the Joint City-County Planning Commission. The committee members are chosen by the superintendent.
“We try to get a wide variety,” said Stephanie Spence, administrative assistant to Superintendent Bo Matthews.
Among the 20 people who sit on the committee is Shelia Childress, a teacher at the Area Technology Center, who is also a Barren County alum and parent.
“This is my third time of serving on this committee. I attended this school. This is where I went to high school, elementary school and my children have been educated through this school system, so I am all in,” she said. “I’m vested and I want the district to continue to grow and I want to be a part of that; however I can help or serve our students as a parent and as a teacher. I’m all about what’s best for our students so however I can serve our students in and out of the classroom I want to do that.”
The LPC is charged with creating a draft of the district’s facilities plan that will address educational facility needs.
“We’re looking for the next four to five years out where our facilities are now and what needs we’re going to have for students,” said Anthony Frazier, director of facilities and chairman of the LPC.
In doing so, the LPC will first look at what needs the school district has that can be completed within the next biennium.
To make that determination, the LPC will look at school enrollment, district finances, transportation needs and instruction needs, he said.
The state requires the LPC to meet a minimum of four times, but if the committee needs more time to discuss a project further it can meet as many times as it needs, Frazier said.
The goal is to have a draft of the district facilities plan completed before spring break in order to get it to the state board for approval, because the state board of education only meets every other month.
Before it can be sent to the state board of education for approval, it must be approved by the local board of education.
“It’s a lot of work to do in a short period of time to get the draft up to the state board,” Frazier said.
The district facilities plan has to be in the possession of the state board of education 45 days before it meets in order for it to appear on its agenda, Spence said.
“We are going to have a facilitator that helps guide us through the process,” said Matthews, adding that person is employed by RBS Design, an architectural firm that has worked on several of the school system’s projects through the years.
The committee was shown a copy of the current district facilities plan, which was approved by the state board of education in October 2015. It lists the school district’s education centers and the student enrollment for each as of 2014, plus the student capacity of each school.
The grand total amount for district need was more than $27 million.
Matthews pointed out that in developing the current district facilities plan the committee serving at that time listed everything it could possibly think of to drive up the district’s unmet need costs.
“Occasionally, the state will put money into a pot for us to access to help meet our unmet needs. If you don’t put it in the plan and show it as a potential unmet need, then we don’t always have access to things that we would like to,” he said. “Quite a bit of updating will have to be done on our DFP. There’s no doubt about it. Even with Red Cross there are several things that have already been scratched off that list right there and some have not, but at the time of the original plan it was to drive up the unmet total need for the district.”
Various funding sources for the school district based on the school district’s current SEEK calculation were also reviewed with the committee. The funding sources will have to be considered during the development of the district facilities plan.
One of the funding sources Matthews addressed was the district’s growth nickel.
“We really have an aggressive building program since the 1990s in Barren County schools. Our buildings are really in pretty good shape if you kind of visually take a drive around the county in your mind. Our board made a decision out of our tax rate to put an additional nickel into our building fund, which accelerated how fast that account grew,” he said. “But it could only be used for brick mortar projects. That’s always been something that has been really hard for the public to see, understand or appreciate. We are able to do a lot of brick and mortar things it seems like in a pretty aggressive fashion, but we are not able to spend money in other areas that some people would like for us to do like salaries for positions or those kinds of things.”
He continued that before 1990 the school district had a lot of infrastructure that needed to be upgraded.
“The board said: ‘Tell you what. We are going to go ahead and commit an additional nickel of our tax funds locally. You can’t go backwards and take that away and use it another way now, because whenever a bond sale happens it is for 20 years,” Matthews said. “We are making a mortgage payment for 20 years based on that revenue that previous boards committed us to. It’s kind of what we live with now. You don’t get to change or adjust that.”
He went on to talk about how the school district is one of 20 school districts statewide that would benefit by the state equalizing the school district’s growth nickel.
“Roughly, we are in the ball park of having $15 million right now available for brick and mortar projects in our district. That’s a great situation to be in,” he said.
There is proposed state legislation that could generate another $10 million for the school district if the state decides “to pay their share of what we are putting in to our savings account,” Matthews said.
He continued that the school district would not have to spend the additional money if its growth nickel is equalized, but he said it could if it needed to.
The next LPC meeting will take place at 4 p.m. on Feb. 24.