This story initially appeared in the Aug. 25 issue of the Community Voice. For your own subscription, call 270-384-9454.
In a split vote, the Adair County School Board gave Derek Phillips of Deco Architects direction on how his company should proceed with the drawings of a planned middle school during a board meeting last Thursday.
The board voted 3-2 to have the architect move forward with a plan of a three-storied school. The board reached its decision after a long discussion.
“This goes back to my roots,” said board chair Troy Grider. “I was raised to think more to try and help the underserved, the people nobody else is going to advocate for. I have always been the champion of the underdog.”
Grider said he is concerned about safety issues with a three-story building. In the proposed plan, the first two floors have a direct ground exit, but the third floor does not.
“We’re talking about trying to create a situation where we do not cause an entrapment (on the top floor) in case of an emergency. We have to do absolutely everything we can do to ensure safety.”
Board member Terry Harvey made a motion to proceed with an original plan the board discussed, which would be a two-level school. Grider stood to give an impassioned plea to the other board members to support Harvey’s motion.
“I want to stand to state why I support our original plan for a two-level school. Both levels would have exits and an entrance to ground level,” he said. “This has been a tough decision. It has always been the history of the board to go to every end of every measure to make our schools as safe as we pos- sibly can.
“If we were to build a three-lev- el school, we will create an entrap- ment. We are not talking about making it easier on people who are handicapped or disabled or in a wheelchair. There would be only
a few ways out. There is the stairwell, the eleva- tor, which in the event of an emergency would be shut down I have been told. The only other option would be to jump out a window. I want to go down on record for standing for the right and the cause of safety in the event of an emergen- cy. Let’s give these children a fighting chance.”
Harvey’s motion lost by a vote of 2-3 with David Karnes, Destiny Greer and Dana King voting against it. Grider and Harvey voted affirmative. Greer later made a motion to direct Deco Architects to begin draw- ing a three-floor school.
Grider made an amendment to the motion that the archi- tects include in their drawing a way for stu- dents on the top floor to exit quickly in the case of an emergency, which could include an exit or ramp that would get them to safety as quickly as possible.
Greer’s motion passed 3-2, along the same lines as the previous motion, with King and Karnes joining Greer.
“I have asked people way smarter than me, and the biggest things to me were that both plans they showed us exceeded Kentucky Department of Education requirements and state building codes,” Greer said. “That makes me think both plans are safe. The three-level plan gives us more room to expand later on, versus the two-level plan. As well, it is going to allow us to build the school in its entirety within our bonding capacity, to build the school as a whole.”
Areas in the school are designed to be fire-rat- ed and Greer said she has confidence in school staff that they would go above and beyond in taking care of any stu- dent in need. She also said she has confidence in local first responders to do everything they can to make sure the children are safe.
Despite the vote, Grid- er said nothing is set in stone on the school building. It is in the plan- ning stages right now, so several steps must still be completed. Grider said he hopes the com- munity feels comfortable expressing opinions.
“I have always said the decisions in the school system should never be just an internal deci- sion,” he said. “I would be more than happy to hear from citizens. We need to hear from the public.”
Deco Architects is expected to give an update at the board’s September meeting.
By Scott Wilson