LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A day after Jefferson County Board of Education members approved a major renovation project at duPont Manual High School, one school board member said it’s time for the district to reconsider renovating its older buildings and instead build brand new facilities.
Chris Brady, who represents District 7 on the school board, was the only person to vote against the plan for a new HVAC system and electrical and architectural renovations at Manual and a $61.4 million bond sale that provides $34.4 million for the project during two separate meetings on Tuesday. The district’s facility plan estimated the project would cost $48.5 million.
For Brady, spending so much on a school building built in 1933 makes little sense in the same year that the Jefferson County Board of Education approved plans to construct three elementary schools and a middle school. He noted that district officials, who have often espoused a desire to preserve architecturally significant buildings, said Tuesday that replacing Manual entirely would cost between $100 million and $120 million.
“I think we have to starting thinking about facilities differently in JCPS, and if we keep spending half the cost of a school for HVAC or for other renovations, I don’t think we’re ever going to get ahead of the 8 ball, so to speak, of actually replacing our facilities,” Brady told WDRB News on Wednesday.
“We need to really get to a point where we’re replacing facilities, and I have a big concern that investing $50 million or $48 million into a facility, which is almost half the replacement cost, is counterintuitive to what we would like to do as a district.”
Brady noted that Fayette County Public Schools opened the doors to Frederick Douglass High School, which cost $82 million to build, in 2017. Meanwhile, the youngest high school in JCPS is about 50 years old, he said.
He doesn’t believe that Manual, which is in Chairwoman Diane Porter’s District 1, should be replaced entirely, but there are parts of the facility that have “outlived” their usefulness. “There are parts that are architecturally significant,” he said.
The same holds true for other JCPS facilities like the Academy @ Shawnee, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and is also in Porter’s District 1, Brady said. The school was built in 1927, and it’s slated for major renovations totaling about $40 million, including opening its long-shuttered third floor.
“We need to take a look at being able to preserve sections of those buildings to be able to honor its heritage and to make sure that we’re not destroying something that is architecturally significant,” he said. “But at the same time we need to also balance that with the need for better learning environments and lower operating costs as a district.”
EH Construction, based in Shepherdsville, was the winning bidder for the Manual renovation project, according to documents presented to the Jefferson County School District Finance Corporation, which is chaired by JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio and made up of school board members, during its meeting Tuesday.
Other projects that will receive funding through the $61 million bond sale approved by the board, and their cost estimates according to the district’s facility plan, are:
- $8.3 million for an HVAC renovation at Westport Early Childhood Center (estimated to cost $14 million)
- $7.3 million for an HVAC renovation at the Phoenix School of Discovery at Jaeger Education Center (estimated to cost $9 million)
- $6.8 million for an HVAC renovation at Hite Elementary (estimated to cost $8.2 million)
- $1.4 million for a partial roof replacement at Valley High School (estimated to cost $1.4 million)
- $966,000 for a partial roof replacement at Stuart Academy (estimated to cost $2.2 million)
- $716,000 for a full roof replacement at Wilt Elementary (estimated to cost $690,000)
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