King Middle School has experienced the most growth in student population. Over the last three years, about 100 more students have enrolled in the middle school. "We've absorbed about all we can," middle school Principal John Gumm said in March. In addition to the growth in the number of students in the elementary school going on to middle school, there have been other sources of students.
Gumm said about half of the 100 additional students have come from the elementary school and growth in the community. About 40 students were unexpected. Some have come from Central Kentucky Christian School and some are homeschooled children. The principal said those children usually enter the public school systems at about the fifth or sixth grades.
Ken Brooks, an educational planning consultant was at the committee meeting to explain the growth in the three schools and the needs for the future.
The growth in student population has forced the district to develop a facilities study two years before one is due. "We had exhausted our old facility plan and we still had two more years before a new plan (is formulated) so we decided to amend the old plan," Johnson said. A facility plan is supposed to last the district four years.
"This facility plan should take care of Mercer County for the next 40 years," Johnson said in a telephone interview.
The new high school likely will be called Mercer County Senior High School and will house grades 10-12. That is only part of the plan Johnson submitted to the committee when it met earlier this week. The elementary school would include grades K-3. The current middle school building would become an intermediate school with grades 4-6 and the current high school building would become a middle school with grades 7-9.
The current grade alignment is grades K-4 at Mercer County Elementary School, grades 5-8 at the middle school and grades 9-12 at the high school.
None of the changes can take place right away. Johnson said he sees the plan as a four- or five-year process, and he hopes to be there to see it completed. The Mercer County Board of Education recently gave Johnson a new four-year contract.
While the actual building may not occur right away, Johnson said the district wants to be ready for whatever comes.
Pending approval by the Mercer County Board of Education and the Kentucky Board of Education, "We want to go ahead and start planning our building," which Johnson said would be state of the art. He also wants to get architectural plans and acquire a building site.
Johnson said the board will be considering a land purchase, but it is too early to be specific about which land they are considering. The board owns a 13-acre tract across the road from the central office, but he said the state prefers a building site contain a minimum of 20 acres.
"We want to have everything ready so when the funding becomes available, we'll be ready to go," he said. Funding may well be the sticking point. The General Assembly did not produce a budget during it's session earlier this year, and that makes it impossible to know how much money the state will make available for such a plan.
"This plan will increase our bonding potential from the state," Johnson said of the funds needed.