For the last several weeks, the committee has been touring the county's 11 facilities, holding public forums and gathering information from school officials and architects concerning the district's structural and curriculum needs. Last Monday, the committee began discussing the stacks of compiled reports and dissecting each issue. The "breakdowns" concluded last night, which clears the agenda for prioritizing needs.
"As a committee, we've been very diligent with the task before us," said Frank Smith, chairman of the facilities planning committee. "There's going to be some hard decisions we're going to have to make, but I know we'll meet each challenge to the best of our abilities."
Although Smith has attempted to steer the committee away from talk of consolidation at previous public forums, the issue will inevitably surface during future meetings. The previous facilities committee was unable to come up with a plan acceptable to the county school board, leaving the newly formed committee with additional pressure of drafting one that is satisfactory. The former committee's blueprint to consolidate the county's three high schools was rejected by a board whose majority opposed closing schools.
Adding to the pressure, the committee is also faced with a tight time line in completing its plan, which must be finished in April to be placed on the Kentucky Department of Education's agenda for bonding consideration. George Cawood, a facilitator with the Kentucky School Board Association, said he believed the committee is up to the challenge.
"I'm very pleased with the level of commitment this committee has shown," Cawood said. "They have been great with their attendance and participation. They've dedicated a great amount of time to gathering information and studying it so that they can make the best, most educated decisions."
Besides the countless hours the committee will spend in forming a plan, Cawood was quick to point out that nothing was final until the last public forum has been held.
"And we're a distance away from that," he said.
At the end of Monday's meeting, Cawood handed out copies of the district's facilities plan, saying what needed to be done next was to "fill in the blanks." The plan contains five major sections, with the first concerning school organization. Part B involves school identification, which are permanent or transition learning center designations. Cawood explained permanent locations referred to facilities in which the committee desires to invest 20-year bonds. Transition centers, he said, refer to those that might be phased out.
Part C of the plan will include a prioritized list of capital construction plans; Part D, list of unmet needs; and Part E, discretionary projects, which Cawood described as renovations to non-academic facilities such as central office or athletic fields.
Gary Hackler, the district's curriculum supervisor, spoke briefly in regard to Kentucky Senate Bill 74, which requires all high schools to offer at least four Advanced Placement classes.
"Everybody's covered," Hackler said. "But this is something you may want to consider in future discussions.
Currently, Cumberland High School offers four AP classes, Evarts has five and James A. Cawood High School has nine. Hackler said if four AP classes are not offered, then students must take part in Kentucky Virtual High School, which he described as rough and expensive.
"It costs about $700 per student per course," he said.
The facilities committee is scheduled to meet Feb. 19 at the central office.