Boyle school board discusses upcoming COVID approach, options for high school building

Published 2:41 pm Monday, July 26, 2021

Boyle County Schools will have more local control when it comes to response to the COVID-19 pandemic this year, as of now.

This will be done through a red light-yellow light-green light approach, Superintendent Mike LaFavers shared during the school board meeting July 22. This type of system has been in place since around 2010 to control the spread of the flu and other illnesses.

“We’ve talked about it as a staff — this is the most important school year of our careers,” LaFavers said. “It’s going to be a very important school year to our students.”

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LaFavers expects the district will begin the school year on Aug. 11 “green.” Guidelines in place in the “green light” stage include upholding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kentucky Department of Public Health guidelines when it comes to masks, that they are recommended for those who are not vaccinated.

“We’re going to let parents, students, staff be aware of those (guidelines), but we’re not going to mandate masks,” LaFavers said. “We’re not going to go about policing masks. We’re going to make people aware of it, and as long as we can stay in green, that is how we’ll handle masks.”

Other guidance under green light will be that social distancing has been reduced to 3 feet, and most instructional strategies work within that range. Social distancing will be implemented when possible, and there will be increased cleaning of desks and high-touch surfaces. There will be contact tracing and quarantining if and when cases of COVID-19 arise.

One important note is that, no matter what stage in the red-yellow-green model, all students aboard buses must wear a mask.

“That’s coming straight from the federal government,” LaFavers said.

There are a few differences in the “yellow” stage, meaning that there are “some” cases of COVID-19 across a certain school, or district-wide. Social distancing will look similar to “green.” The biggest difference will be that when contact-tracing, non-vaccinated individuals who have been exposed to the individual who tested positive will be sent home, while vaccinated individuals will not be sent home but will need to wear a mask. There will also be a more intensive cleaning protocol in place under the yellow stage.

“Red” would mean “a lot of” cases across a school or district-wide, “But we’re not ready to send everybody home for virtual,” LaFavers said. “We want to stay in school.”

Under the red stage, the first thing that would happen is that masks would be worn by everyone, at all times. Social distancing would be more strict and cleaning protocol would be like last year’s.

“We hope we never get to red,” LaFavers said. “Quite frankly, we hope we’re never yellow. But the state and the federal government said local control at the moment, and we think by using this green-yellow-red system, we can safely open school and eliminate the gaps that have been created and keep people safe at the same time.”

In other business:

• Tony Thomas, an architect with Clotfelter/Samokar, who worked on the Boyle County Middle School and Woodlawn Elementary School projects, unveiled two different possibilities for future development of Boyle County High School — relocating and creating a new school either on or off campus, or renovating and expanding the existing building.

Thomas shared the “pros” of choosing a new location: all new construction, no learning interruptions, potentially closer proximity to the new auditorium located adjacent to BCMS — and the “cons”: a more limiting, possibly “landlocked” location on campus, potential need for a separate space for the planned technical center that is part of the district’s facility plan and loss of athletic space use during construction.

Selecting a new location for the high school could cost the district $63,208,000, potentially more if the district had to buy different property off-campus. This cost would include new construction, demolition of the old BCHS building, construction of the technical center and costs involving athletics.

“Pros” of keeping the existing building Thomas shared include: existing utility infrastructure, the current high-visibility location, repurposable spaces and room for future growth including the technical center campus. “Cons” include phased construction, potential learning interruptions due to construction and the distance from the auditorium.

A cost comparison shows keeping the existing building at a projected $45,555,000 for costs including new construction, partial demolition to the existing building, renovations, the technical center and some athletics expenses.

All of the board members spoke in favor of keeping the existing building, though no action was taken. LaFavers said he wanted the board to discuss it during the meeting because what they decide to do may impact several decisions as time goes on.

Vice-chairperson Jesse Johnson said he likes the school’s current location and that he thinks the district also needs to focus on what to do with the old Woodlawn building and the old central office building.

“I don’t want us to look at the shininess of a brand-new high school and forget all the other little things we need to keep going,” he said.

He also expressed concern about how a new location might limit future growth.

“I’d hate to spend $60 million and tie our hands,” he said.

Board member Ruth Ann Elliott said she wants to see more focus on off-campus schools (Junction City Elementary School, Perryville Elementary School), as they have seen much less renovation than those on-campus. LaFavers said discussing the high school now “doesn’t mean that this project jumps ahead of Junction and Perryville.”

Elliott also said she thinks the current high school location is the “perfect spot.”

“Unless we buy another piece of property,” she said. “But that’s just a lot of money, and we have a lot to be done, and we’ve got to be good stewards of our money, our taxpayer money.”

Board member Laura Weddle said to her, keeping the existing building “is more sustainable both financially, environmentally, resource-wise. The infrastructure is already there.”

Chairperson Jennifer Newby and board member Steve Tamme also spoke in favor of keeping the existing location.

• The board approved a base bid of $200,000 with a vote of 4-1, with Elliott as the “nay” vote, for the walkway project between the middle and high schools, the main purpose of which will provide a place to walk between the high school and the auditorium. The base bid includes lights, sidewalk and low wall. The bidder is Olympic Construction, LLC.