Boone Co. Schools builds to keep up with growth

Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-22 07:00:39-04

BOONE COUNTY, Ky. -- A new middle school is less than three years off for Boone County Schools. The school is the largest of multiple construction projects in the works aiming to accommodate an ever-growing student population.

The new facility, to be built in Union’s Ballyshannon subdivision, will be one of six middle schools in the district. The opening of the new sixth- through eighth-grade building is expected to coincide with a redistricting within Boone County Schools.

“We’re growing by leaps and bounds and trying to keep up, so I think that’s what we’re headed for,” said Maria Brown, who chairs the district’s school board.

The district has grown substantially in the last 20 years, and with a current student population of nearly 20,000, the trend seems to be persisting. “I think both ends of the county are continuing to grow, so we’re just trying to keep up,” Brown said.

Architect Robert Ehmet Hayes and Associates is in the early stages of schematic designs for the new middle school, which is expected to be open by the start of the 2018–19 school year. The Fort Mitchell-based firm specializes in school designs.

Although the design process is still underway, the building will incorporate more flexible classroom and community spaces to accommodate project-based learning activities. “They’re opportunities for kids to get engaged in something on a deeper level,” Brown said.

Project-based learning is implemented to varying degrees in all the district’s schools, but this will be the first time incorporating it school-wide, she said. “I think it’s kind of a representation of where we’re headed as a district.”

The middle schools aren’t the only buildings running out of room. Ryle High School also is on the list of schools that soon will be under construction.

“Ryle clearly needs space,” Brown said. “They’re busting at the seams.”

The construction project at Ryle, one of four high schools in the district, will add classroom space and expand the building’s cafeteria. “They’re having challenges getting students through (the cafeteria) in the amount of space they have,” Brown said.

The project is expected to begin this summer and should take between one and one-and-a-half years to complete. District officials hope to complete renovations by the 2017–18 school year.

New Haven Elementary also will see renovations this summer, with a “revamping” of some classrooms to make them more up-to-date, said Eric McArtor, deputy superintendent for Boone County Schools.

Combined, the projects are expected to cost the district about $40 million.

“All of our projects, we try to be as conservative as possible because the budget is tight,” McArtor said.

About $2 million will cover the renovations at New Haven Elementary, and approximately $8.5 million will go toward work at Ryle High School. The anticipated cost for the new middle school is “hovering around the $30 million range,” said Linda Schild, director of finance for the district.

District officials will sell bonds to cover the cost of all three projects, she said.