County BOE narrows down new school site options

Amelia Holliday — Staff Reporter

November 8, 2013

BUCKHORN—The search continued this week at a special called meeting held at Buckhorn School for sites to build two new schools, which the Perry County School District hopes to have finished in the next few years.

District finance officer Jody Maggard and Steve Maggard, with the firm Ross Tarrant Architects, presented the board on Wednesday with what could be the final options for site locations for the future West Perry Elementary and new Chavies Elementary schools.

“We have been, over the last couple of weeks, staying really busy still with site selection. Right now, if I see a for sale sign, we’re checking into it just because I want to be sure we’re going down all of our avenues,” Jody Maggard said. “I sort of feel like I’ve looked at every piece of property that we could possibly build a school on.”

Over the last week the board has been presented with multiple sites for each school, narrowing down the choices to two primary possibilities for each school on Wednesday. The board had previously expressed interest in acquiring property in the Coal Fields Industrial Park, however, Maggard said this would no longer be an option for the board.

“We’ve been in some meetings with that industrial board. I don’t think it’s probably in the board’s best interest or our school system’s best interest to pursue properties that’s in that industrial park,” Maggard said. “I don’t think there’s any way we can be in that … and have good neighbors.”

Maggard said he would be looking into the specifics of prices for sites the board agreed upon as soon as possible, and would also let the other land owners he had been in contact with know that the board was no longer interested in their land.

Board member Jerry Stacy said the board needs to work quickly to begin this process of acquiring land so that the projects can be finished as quickly as possible.

“We need to figure this out. We don’t want to wait around and be talking about this three or four months from now,” Stacy said.

Maggard said with the board having a bonding potential of around $22 million right now, and with another $1.75 million-$2 million being added to that in the next two years after a property tax increase earlier this year, the district is in prime position to finish the work they have set out to do.

“Our goal in three years is to have those two schools,” he said. “How can we piece this puzzle together so that in three years we’ve got probably 800 to 900 students in new schools? That’s just what we’ve got to do.”

In other business, Ron Turner, who became principal of Buckhorn School earlier this year, presented the board with an update on how the school has been performing so far this year.

Turner said attendance in both the high school and elementary school has been up, and that staff attendance has been very impressive.

“Our staff attendance, I didn’t get official numbers on that, but I think we’ve had 16 or 17 days of perfect attendance, and with about 46 teachers that’s unheard of,” he said.

Turner added that assessment data so far has increased compared to this time last year, including college and career readiness percentages for seniors.

“We’re at 25 percent already with college and career ready with another 25 percent close enough to benchmark, which puts us right at that 50 percent at this point already, and I think at this point last year we were at about 8 percent,” Turner said.

Superintendent Jonathan Jett said since the administration and staff changes were made earlier this year at the school, he thinks there has been tremendous improvement.

“I think Buckhorn, it’s evident by their data, that their focus is on instruction and I’m really excited about what the end of the year’s going to hold for students here,” Jett said.