LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The Academy @ Shawnee is the largest school in Kentucky, but many of its students have no idea about its massive third floor.
At 100,000 square feet, the third floor has been condemned since the 1980s. Some of the fixtures look like they could date back to the school's construction in 1927: the wood-framed chalkboards, the antique sinks and toilets and built-in cabinets. Many of the glass windows are broken.
"It’s very scary to be up here, especially when you’re by yourself," Principal Kym Rice said.
Rice and Jefferson County Public Schools see nothing but opportunity now, however, after the district approved $36 million for renovating the third floor and other parts of the school.
"I think it will make the kids feel better to know that, 'Oh wow, there’s a space that wasn’t being used before, and now it’s being used,'" Rice said. "In fact, some of the seniors are upset, because they won’t be here for it."
Many of the students don’t even know the third floor exists, Rice said. The doors going upstairs are always locked. One thing’s for certain: There’s no shortage of space among the tall ceilings and windows and wide hallways that stretch longer than 100 yards.
Officials at Shawnee plan to use the refurbished space to highlight the school's career programs: aviation, interactive media, pre-nursing, manufacturing and more. And, while other Louisville high schools like Eastern and Male are busting at the seams, Rice hopes Shawnee’s new look can bring more students to the west end.
"I would like to add at least 150 kids per grade level in three to five years," Rice said. "We don’t want to get too big, but we want to be a nice size for the community and fill this space here."
Construction crews have started minor work to the school, but the full renovation project gets going in April. It is expected to be finished by October 2021.
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