School officials planning Phase 1 expansion

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By Geoff Hamill

A school tax increase has been approved for Washington County, and now there will be more money coming into the school system’s budget, including a portion that will go toward facilities for the school district. So what will be done with that money?

Washington County Superintendent of Schools Robin Cochran explained that some of the needs of the local school district will be met from a pool of money from the district’s bonding capacity. The work has been mapped out by Ross Tarrant Architects of Lexington, and will be completed in various phases. The first phase will cost an estimated $12,947,185, plus additional fees and expenses related to architecture and other fees totaling just over $15 million.

Phase 1 of the work is expected to see ground broken in early 2010, and will include work on a new entry area for the high and middle schools, a new cafeteria and kitchen, as well as baseball and softball fields.

Cochran said as a former high school athlete, she is in favor of having the athletic facilities, but as an educator, she also wants to make sure the best steps are taken for education.

“We have to look at what directly impacts instruction,” she said. “I agree that kids involved in athletics are usually out of trouble and go on to be successful. Still, instructional things that are lacking will make them inadequate when looking for a job or trying to get into college.”

Cochran said as work begins, it’s important to make the best decisions possible, because there will be no going back.

“We have one time to get this right,” she said of the expansion. “It is crucial that the decisions we make drive the opportunities of our children’s future because it won’t happen again during our careers. There’s no room for errors. Everything is so tight with budgets, and for our bonding capacity to come back around after this, it’s going to be a while. So we have to make sure our decisions are the best ones we can make.”

Before work begins, the public will have a chance to speak out on concerns, as well as asking questions about the project. Five large boards depicting the work that is planned are placed around the community, and they are located at the Opera House, IGA, Save-A-Lot, the Washington County Board of Education offices, and also at Washington County High School. Four additional boards will be placed in the community soon, according to Cochran.

School system administrators will hold discussions about the projects on Thursday, Sept. 10. The first session will be for neighbors of the campus, and will start at 2 p.m. At 3 p.m., the school department heads will meet with administrators. All meetings are open to the public, and will take place at Washington County High School.

For more information, contact the Washington County Board of Education at (859) 336-5470.

See the complete story in this week's Springfield Sun!