Redistricting plans uncertain for new Elrod Road school - Officials hesitant to start moving students before construction is complete

Daily News (Bowling Green, KY) - Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Author: JENNA MINK, The Daily News, jmink@bgdailynews.com/783-3246
Redistricting plans for a new elementary school are up in the air as officials wait to determine whether that building will be ready in time for next school year. 

Some Warren County students will transfer from their current elementary schools to the new Elrod Road Elementary School in the Ivan Downs area. That school is scheduled to open by Aug. 15, but it’s uncertain whether builders can meet that target. 

Meanwhile, school officials are leery of redistricting students before they’re confident the building will be ready in August, Superintendent Tim Murley said. 

As far as redistricting, “nothing has taken place,” he said. “We’re going to look to see if we can actually do it this year. ... I’m just hesitant to even start that process until we’re a little further down (the road).” 

The 80,000-square-foot building can house up to 750 students. The new school was designed to help alleviate overcrowding at certain elementary schools. Some students at Rich Pond and Natcher elementary schools definitely will move to the new school, and students from some other schools will likely be affected by redistricting plans, Murley said. 

“That’s what we have to determine,” he said. “Rich Pond and Natcher, for sure, but once you start that process, there are some schools where we can move students around that are crowded.” 

In its first school year, South Warren Middle and High School, the largest school building in Kentucky, was built for similar reasons. It helped ease crowded hallways, mainly at Greenwood High and Drakes Creek Middle schools. 

The director of pupil personnel spearheads the redistricting process, gathering a committee and making recommendations concerning the number of children who should transfer and who should move to the new school. The board of education then must approve the redistricting suggestions. 

Two new elementary schools also opened this year, but unlike the Elrod Road school, they were simply new buildings for existing schools. 

Students at Richardsville and Bristow elementary schools had a place to go if the new buildings were not completed on time. In fact, students and workers at Richardsville stayed in the old building for nearly two months before moving into the new school on Sept. 27. 

But that can’t happen at Elrod Road Elementary School. Once students are redistricted, they would have nowhere to go if the building wasn’t ready. 

Workers have finished the building’s skeleton and are waiting to install the roof, but cold weather has been an issue. The construction process depends on weather conditions over the next few months, said Kenny Stanfield, principal of Sherman Carter Barnhart, the architecture firm in charge of the project. 

“I think right now, the construction is at a very vulnerable (stage) because it’s not dry, and we’re at the worst part of the year for weather,” Stanfield said. “So, I think we’ll have to keep the board updated as the contractor gives us information, and then the board will have to decide the risk of redistricting and not (possibly) having the building open.” 

School officials are also cautious about promised move-in dates because in the recent past, they haven’t been able to open schools by the anticipated opening day, Murley said. 

Officials should find out by mid-February whether the new school can be completed on time. Then they will decide whether to continue with redistricting plans or wait until next year, Murley said. 

The school is designed to be net-zero, meaning it will create more energy than it uses. Energy-efficient technology should not influence construction time – the main factor affecting school construction is the weather. It typically takes 14 months to complete a school, Stanfield said. 

“This construction began this past summer, and it’s gone really well up until recently, when the weather conditions got to the point where they couldn’t get the roof ready to install,” he said. 

The temperature must be at least 40 degrees to install the school’s roof. That particular system requires warmer weather to bond the roof, Stanfield said. 

“I’m not trying to paint a bad picture of it,” he said. “But they have to be sure the building’s going to be ready because that (redistricting) is a big decision for the whole district.”