State blocks GCCS plans to upgrade three schools
The superintendent of Greater Clark County Schools says some students are in unsafe classrooms and the state has stopped him from fixing the problem.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Taxes, lies and school construction.
The words don't sound like they go together, but today, they're the subject of major fallout in Clark County.
Finding the right formula to fund construction in Greater Clark County Schools has turned into a confusing equation.
The district wanted to borrow $14 million to fund 13 school projects, and charge taxpayers the bill. It's a new plan that was developed after voters rejected a bond package worth more than $100 million last November.
"I feel it was underhanded and deceitful and dishonest," said Alice Butler, a voter and taxpayer.
"We're hiding nothing," said Dr. Andrew Melin, the Greater Clark County Schools superintendent. "The accusation that what we're doing is trying to be underhanded can't be further from the truth."
Butler, a controller by trade, notified Indiana's Department of Local Government Finance and won. The DLGF found the district "artificially" divided projects into parts under $2 million dollars, meaning voters wouldn't have to approve.
"They lost by a large margin and then they're going to try and go in through the back door, circumvent the law and get what they wanted anyway," said Butler.
The DLGF ruling put construction at River Valley and Charleston Middle Schools and Northhaven Elementary on hold.
The school district wanted to address design issues as the three campuses were built with a more open concept. Many classrooms link together with no doors. The library sits in the middle of the school with no walls around it. It's not just a noise distraction for the kids. Some teachers fear the worst.
"If a shooter was to get in, they would have free reign to get wherever they want within minutes," Melin said.
"We're trying to operate within the confines of the law, trying to make sure these facilities are upgraded and safe and provide the best learning environment we can for our kids," Melin added.
"I'll support any improvements that are done in an honest and forthright manner," said Butler.
While taxpayers, voters and faculty try to figure out this problem, the needs of students stand in the middle.
"I've only had one class that has a door, and it's very quiet in there, but the ones that don't have doors, it's like you don't learn as well because you hear all of the surrounding classrooms," said Adley McMahel, a River Valley Middle School 8th grader.
The ultimate answer lies in balancing needs versus wants -- but this equation has a tricky variable: harsh feelings on both sides.
"Whatever it takes to get the work done, that is what we will do," Melin said.
"I have lost all trust in this superintendent and in this board," Butler said.
There is another way to fund construction for the three schools if the cost stays under $10 million. It involves a public hearing from the district and allowing the community to petition for or against the work.
The projects moving forward at 10 other schools mostly involves roofing and flooring repairs.
Copyright 2016 by WDRB News. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.