Friday, May 25, 2018

Johnson Elementary Project Enters Initial State Review Process

A first look at preliminary Johnson Elementary School project plans.

If all goes well, renovations on Robert D. Johnson Elementary School could begin this year.

A formal request for review for the proposed Johnson Elementary School renovation project has been submitted to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). The department has 30 days to review and respond to the request.

Fort Thomas Schools Director of Operations Jerry Wissman shared a first look at preliminary schematics with the board and asked for approval. He said having board approval now will save time. Once the district hears from KDE, the approved schematics can be submitted immediately to the state for its initial review of the project.

RELATED: Town Hall - A New Johnson Elementary School: Designs and What You Should Know 

Looking ahead

While in a rudimentary stage, one that Wissman said was "at this point just colored blocks on paper," the schematics take into consideration the work that has been done on the plans for the renovation since last spring. Divided into two phases, the plans take into consideration the number of classrooms, common spaces and other areas requested and discussed by stakeholders. It also offers alternatives that will be considered as planning continues.

District Superintendent Dr. Karen Cheser praised the board for looking ahead on this issue. "We are very grateful for foresight of this board to go ahead and start plans last spring."

Wissman added that without that work, it could have taken an additional calendar year to get to the point where the district is now.

A brief discussion at the May school board meeting covered issues such as neighborhood concerns about traffic, parking, drop off and pick up areas, the number and size of common areas and classrooms, as well as what would be included in phase one and phase two.

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Wissman noted that many of the plans for traffic flow and related issues will require input and collaboration with the community, the city of Fort Thomas and possibly the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

How we got to here

Cheser shared a recap of the situation. "We were able to secure $7.6 million from the state which we were very thankful went through. And we were able to bond more because the equalization statue was extended. 

We had a lot of help from our legislators, our community, our teachers and our parents. Having enough funding, we are now able to build the school. It will be in two phases, and we anticipate breaking ground possibly (this year)."

"A lot of it depends upon how quickly we can get through KDE," said Wissman "In an ideal world, we can shorten that a little but I think we would be looking at bringing approval of bids and contracts to our (fall) board meetings."


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