Education briefs

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By The Staff

Property near LMS could be up for grabs

An eight-acre plot of land connected to Lebanon Middle School could potentially be developed if the Marion County Board of Education doesn't purchase the property.

Tuesday of last week, landowner Mike Howard addressed the school board regarding the piece of property connected to the Lebanon Middle school campus. Howard owns the commercially zoned piece of land, and said he was recently approached by someone interested in developing the property for a medical clinic. However, Howard said he doesn't want to develop it. He said he would rather sell it. He also said that he promised former Marion County Superintendent Roger Marcum that he would give the school board first dibs on the property if and when he decided to sell it.

Howard said he would sell the property for $40,000 an acre, a total of $320,000.

In 2005, the board purchased 35 acres on Corporate Drive behind Lebanon Middle School for $400,000 from Howard. At that time, Marcum said the property was not only in the "back door" of a big majority of the school system's campus, but, eventually there will be a need for the district to have additional property for possibly a new school.

Board Chairwoman Sr. Kay Carlew said that she was concerned about spending $320,000 for property right now in light of the potential budget cuts that are going to be made within the school district.

"I would have to think twice before purchasing," she said.

The board said they would discuss the property and contact Howard within the next two months.

Special called board meeting April 20

There will be a special called board meeting on Tuesday, April 20, at 6 p.m., at the administration building to discuss Section 7 fund requests at each school in the district.

Section 7 funds are the monies that the board has total discretion over. The board takes school council requests and tries to honor those requests but it can use that money however it pleases in the schools. It's usually a matter of how much money is available and, with no state budget, school districts are unsure of how much they will be able to give.

MCHS graduation is set

Marion County High School's graduation ceremony will be held Saturday, May 29, at 7 p.m.

Tech center update

George Birk of RossTarrant Architects reported to the board that phase II of the Marion County Area Technology Center renovation/addition project is 50 percent complete.

Birk said he would be presenting a change order to the board at the April 27 meeting. This change order involves abatement of a boiler due to the presence of asbestos.

Birk also voiced his concern regarding roof repair that was completed on the tech center after the 2002 hailstorm. He said, in his professional opinion, the repair was not sufficient. Transportation and Maintenance Director Wayne Keen said he would contact the insurance company and check into the repair work completed on other district facilities after the hailstorm. Keen will report his findings at a future board meeting. 

Marion County to get hybrid school bus

Twenty-two public school districts across Kentucky will be adding 34 hybrid electric school buses to their fleets in August, and Marion County is one of those districts. It will be putting a hybrid bus on the road next school year.

Transportation Director Wayne Keen said the hybrid bus would be used on a route within the city limits.

"As role models, we have to show kids ways we can save energy," Keen said. "Using this hybrid school bus is definitely going to be an energy savings. And to be on the frontier part of it is pretty exciting."

Districts were awarded approximately $2.1 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for the hybrid additions. Successful applicants received funding to cover the difference in purchase costs between regular diesel and hybrid buses.

According to Keen, a regular school bus costs around $77,000. A hybrid bus would cost an additional $65,000, so that is the amount the district received from the state to purchase the hybrid bus.

A $13 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy was awarded to the Kentucky Department of Education in late December. The grant offsets the purchase price of the hybrid system for 213 buses. Kentucky will have the largest hybrid electric school bus fleet in the nation.

"The hybrid school bus project not only serves as a means to improve efficiency and be environmentally conscious," said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. "This project will also provide students with learning opportunities across many subject areas. Teachers can develop lesson plans related to fuel consumption, air quality and transportation costs, bringing real-world knowledge and hands-on experiences into the classroom."

The goal of the hybrid school bus project in Kentucky is to provide real world data for a transportation sector across the nation that has seen little improvement in engine efficiency since the adoption of the diesel engine in the late '70s. The hybrid system operates as a parallel system with a diesel engine.  Manufacturers anticipate a 30 to 40 percent reduction in fuel demand. Hybrid electric systems will raise miles per gallon from 7.5 to 12 over traditional diesel-only engines.

Keen sees hybrid school buses becoming the norm in the future, and he's excited about how the hybrid bus will be able to be used for student learning.

"What a project this would be for those students to study how this bus operates," he said.

Performance data will be gathered by the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition.

"Kentucky students will be interactive participants in this project," said Melissa Howell, Ex Dir of the KCFC. "The KCFC plans to engage the students with on site energy teams that can use the information for science and math classes."