By Whitney Legget, CV&T Summer Intern
West Irvine Elementary school has several changes in store for the upcoming school year.
Assistant Superintendent Randall Christopher is excited to be beginning the long-awaited process of the construction of a new West Irvine Elementary School.
The current building, located on River View Road, is a 40,000 sq. foot structure that serves students in grades one through five. According to Christopher, the construction process of an entirely new facility is set to begin in early August.
Christopher said the Estill County Board of Education will begin the bidding process for contractors July 15.
“We hope to have picked a general contractor by mid-August,” Christopher said. “Then within 30 days of that decision we look to begin construction.”
The construction of the new school will include two phases so as to avoid as much displacement of the students and faculty as possible. The first phase will involve the destruction and rebuilding of the primary education wing that currently houses the classrooms for kindergarten to third grade students, the lunch room, dining room, administrative offices, and the gymnasium. Phase two will complete the construction with the intermediate wing that houses fourth and fifth grade classrooms.
Currently the population and needs of the students and faculty have outgrown the facility and the new building offers plenty of new opportunities. As of now, the gymnasium serves several purposes. In addition to acting as the physical education facility, the gym serves as the dining room and a conference/meeting room.
“This dual usage creates some scheduling conflicts,” Christopher said. “We look forward to solving this problem in the new building.”
There are also several outside classrooms and mobile classrooms that serve to alleviate the congestion in the small building.
“The new building is significantly larger,” Christopher said. “We’re going from about 40,000 sq. feet to 69,000 sq. feet. We won’t need outside buildings or trailers any longer.”
In addition to the added space the new school building will be wired with more efficient technology, there will be separate gymnasium and dining facilities and a new library. The new facility will also include more safety features for the protection of the students and faculty.
“The building will ultimately provide a better learning environment,” Christopher said.
Christopher estimates that the construction will take an average of 24 months to complete and he anticipates that the process will be a smooth one.
“We have done our very best to plan,” Christopher said. “We’ve had experience with the construction of the high school. But, there are always going to be conflicts that arise. We plan to take care of those as they come. We are, however, working hard to minimize these conflicts with good planning.”
Along with the construction of a new school building, West Irvine students can expect to become acquainted with a new principal.
Tonya Isaacs, the former principal, was recently promoted to District Supervisor after Joyce Christopher’s retirement. Therefore, the school board has begun the process of selecting a new principal for the elementary school.
According to Superintendent Bert Hensley, the decision is one that is solely in the hands of the Site Based Decision Making Council for the school. However, the SBDM has taken steps to include the community, especially those with ties to the school, like parents of students and staff, in the decision.
“The site based council set up time to meet with constituents and asked them what they want in a new principal,” Hensley said. “Then they compiled a list of questions that will be used during the interview process.”
Hensley presented the SBDM with a list of 13 applicants, many of whom are not currently employed by the school system. Hensley said that this decision is not one to be rushed and asked the council to take their time to make the best decision.
According to Hensley the list of qualities that the SBDM has been asked to look for includes, but is not limited to, things like having high expectations for the students and staff, committment to closing achievement gaps, good communication skills and positive ethics. He, however, understands that this decision is not one that should be rushed.
“The staff and students have already been placed for the upcoming school year,” he said. “I told the council not to be worried about entering the new school year having still not made a decision. This is a process that takes time and this is not a decision that should be rushed.”