There doesn’t seem to be much hope for a badly needed new middle school in the district any time soon.
A presentation at the January school board meeting from students with the Adair County Middle School newspaper reminded the board and audience about the serious issues that middle school students and staff deal with daily.
Superintendent Dr. Pamela Stephens and the local facility planning committee are just as concerned.
However, Stephens said the district’s bonding capacity is unable to support a new school in the near future.
“The middle school is first priority, but you’re talking about $25 million, probably,” said Stephens. “We have a bonding capacity of $3.5 million.”
The district requires bonding for the addition of a new school because revenue available in the general fund falls short.
Ross-Sinclair is the bonding agency for Adair County schools and a bonding agent determines how much bonding the school can sell after reviewing audits, liabilities, building values, debt and other financial information.
Construction of the Adair County Primary Center, the Adair County Elementary School and a bus garage has lowered the district’s bonding capacity significantly. To build those in the first place, the district spent years to build bonding capacity for them.
Stephens estimated that the Adair County High School is close to being paid off, which will help the bonding capacity, but not enough to allow a new school building.
Stephens said that nothing has been bonded since she has served as superintendent. The latest project is the sports complexes to be built this summer at the softball and baseball fields, which is costing a little over $300,000 and is paid for out of the general fund.
Stephens said these new complexes are a necessity because of health hazards that the current facilities have, such as inadequate restrooms and food service areas.
The middle school, which was built in 1953 and served as a high school, is the fourth oldest school in the state of Kentucky, according to school district officials. Members of the first class to graduate in this building would now be in their mid 80s.
Stephens has visited Frankfort and with Sen. Max Wise and said the district has looked into the School Facilities Construction Commission, which provides an equitable distribution of state funding for school construction. Gov. Andy Beshear authorized $100 million to the commission in his budget last month.
“We are high on the priority list of getting under these extra funds,” said Stephens.
However, Stephens said the commission has previously required a district to have two nickel taxes to qualify, and Adair County only has one.
Revenue from a nickel tax goes into facilities only and the addition of another nickel tax has been defeated twice in the past 10 years, according to Stephens.
“We do need a new middle school and have needed one for quite some time, but the number one issue is the nickel tax and if the commission will pick us,” said Stephens. “There’s nothing we can do except politics. It puts me in a new area, but we have some great people on our planning committee that are good politicians and hopefully will take us in the right way.”
The local planning committee consists of representatives from the board of education, each school, parents and business leaders. One of their tasks is to prioritize construction on school campus.
Stephens said there is some talk in Frankfort about adjusting the nickel tax requirements for SFCC assistance, for which she is hopeful.
“I don’t like to pay taxes either, but state law will not allow us to do much to that building. We can’t increase the size of it and they won’t let us bring portable classrooms,” said Stephens.
Stephens said the middle school has continuously added students throughout the year and is now around 650 students.
To resolve the issues until something is done, Stephens said the middle school is using every space available.
“Everywhere that we can possibly put a child, we’re putting them, but you just can’t keep doing that. It’s not right for kids,” said Stephens.
They continue to fix some of the smaller issues with the school when they arise and this summer plan to replace bathroom tiles with concrete since floor tiles are a recurring problem.
Stephens said the next step is to bring Sen. Wise, State Rep. Bam Carney and as many SFCC commissioners as possible to ACMS so they can see issues for themselves.
By Anna Buckman