Lexington neighbors want to say how new school construction will impact ‘residential oasis’

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Neighbors around the new Rise STEM Academy for Girls are expressing concerns about how the proposed $57.8 million school will impact the surrounding community.

It was some parents Asking about a new buildingSaying the current space for Rise, which opened in 2020 in the old Linlee Elementary School on Spurr Road, was not enough.

Documents from the Jan. 8 school board meeting said the tentative opening is February 2027. The new school will be located at 2160 Versailles Road.

Fayette County Public Schools launched the Rise STEM Academy for Girls in 2020-21 because district leaders wanted to support girls in STEM in their formative years so they embrace those career paths. The magnet school initially welcomed up to 150 students in grades K-2 and will add a level each year through eighth grade, the district’s website said.

Neighbor Paula Singer said she would like to see FCPS hold public meetings about the project to allow residents to ask questions about what to expect.

“Developing this formerly quiet, historically significant family residential oasis into STEM academy “This has widespread implications for the Versailles Road corridor and the businesses, residents and neighborhoods that intersect the corridor,” Singer said.

Many people have worked tirelessly to bring attention to the needs of the entire corridor, said Peggy Hinson, a former Lexington-Fayette Urban Council member who represented the area.

Henson said there are several neighborhoods along the Mason Headley and Versailles Road corridor that could be affected by the project.

“Fayette County Public Schools should hold a meeting with area residents, organizations and businesses where we can present project plans and ask questions,” Hinson said. “My specific concerns relate to traffic flow and the appearance of the development on Mason Headley Road and Versailles.”

“FCPS does a good job in our city by improving the image of the district in which the schools are located,” she said.

FCPS officials had previously been in contact with neighbors who have property interests that border the property line with the construction site, said Dea Davidson-Smith, a spokeswoman for the Fayette School District.

“FCPS plans to meet with them about current plans and, if necessary, expand this discussion to include a broader range of stakeholders,” she said.

“It is important to note, prior to purchasing this parcel of land, FCPS had to coordinate with teams from LFUCG Traffic Engineering, as well as the State Transportation Cabinet, to ensure the safety and suitability of the road was addressed.” He said.

Any concerns about roads and lights should be addressed with those agencies, Davidson-Smith said.

The project plans for the school building and grounds

The new two-story girls’ Rise Stem Academy will be built on a 37-acre “beautiful site with rolling hills, wooded areas and hedgerows,” documents from architecture firm Ross Tarrant said in the agenda for the Jan. 8 meeting.

Becky Smith Dorman lives down the street from the site and is a mother of children who will be attending the school.

“The new school looks amazing to me, it has a lot of green space and it has a great mission,” Dorman said. “I think having such a great program in the neighborhood will be great and I look forward to being able to visit the new facility and see what they have done with the property.”

The 112,155-square-foot building will serve 900 students in grades K-8.

The program will focus on project-based learning, flexibility and multiple spaces for teaching, learning and collaboration.

Plans for the school building include classroom wings with resource rooms, administrative offices, restrooms and small-group learning spaces.

A larger classroom would serve each grade, with direct access to the outdoors, the architect’s documents said.

The first floor contains space for physical education, cafeteria, kitchen and music. Media center, classrooms for grades 6-8 and elective classes. It will be on the second floor.

A document from architecture firm Ross Tarrant said there was access to the site from Versailles Road to the north.

“The existing access road to the site will remain in the same location but will be modified to accommodate bus traffic in both directions. An additional access road for faculty, staff and parents will be added from Mason Headley Road,” the document said.

The access road will be a one-way road with the entrance located across the street from Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital and the exit located south towards Duntreath and exit onto Mason Headley.

The back side of the building includes a large playground with swings, and two play structures will be connected to the building through paved paths leading to several exits, the document said.

The center between the two wings will be used for outdoor classroom and demonstration space as well as garden space and places for some science-related outdoor projects.

District officials said the architects met with teachers to get ideas.

Myron Thompson, chief operating officer for Fayette Schools, said at the Jan. 8 school board meeting that a house would be removed from the property but told board member Amanda Ferguson that neighbors wanted to keep the silo on the property and district staff would bring information about that back to The Commission.

The lot is just over 37 acres, Thompson said. Much of that will be handled by the school but he said there is room for additional structures later.

Officials said the district is working to protect trees and forests on the property.

Neighbors’ concerns

Thompson said district officials have met with neighbors interested in preserving green space.

Singer said last week that school district officials had not reached out to her at the time.

“My only concern at this time is the lack of information,” she said.

“I believe the school can have a positive impact on the Versailles Road corridor and surrounding neighborhoods if our city officials take a comprehensive approach to this opportunity,” Singer said.

Versailles Road corridor improvements to slow vehicular traffic and enhance pedestrian safety should become a priority, Singer said.

Singer said the time had come to implement the recommendations of the 2016 Oxford Circle Redevelopment Feasibility Study and reorganize Mason Headley-Oxford Circle to create a better context for future retail development, and remove visual and physical barriers on Versailles Road.

“If we can have an open dialogue with FCPS and LFUCG, I believe we can make much-needed and long-overdue improvements to our gateway corridor,” Singer said. “But we can’t take a piecemeal approach like the city used to do.”

In response, Urban District Government spokeswoman Susan Stroup said, “The city has already begun work on the Versailles Road sidewalks. We are always ready to work with our schools and the community.”

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