By Madelynn Coldiron
Kentucky school district leaders will have more flexibility and less red tape if revisions in school facilities regulations are approved.
The proposed changes are expected to get their first airing at the Kentucky Board of Education’s Aug. 8-9 meeting, Education Commissioner Dr. Terry Holliday said.
Holliday said he asked for the revisions, based in part on recommendations made in a 2006 report by a task force that included local school administrators, facility directors, architects and members of the School Facilities Construction Commission.
The state education department should be involved in “the big things,” he said, defining those as ensuring state and federal laws are followed in school construction projects. The state board of education, by law, also will continue to vet local facility plans.
“But I think in general we need to rely much more on our local districts to make decisions,” Holliday said. “I saw our regulatory process as being burdensome for local districts and not always adding value.”
He cited as an example what he called his department’s “barriers to the process” when several school districts wanted to buy a strip mall and convert it to an educational space.
“We need to be supporters of innovation and creativity, as long as people meet federal and state law,” he said.
With a traditional mind-set of square footage requirements and the like, Holliday said, “We’re not focused on learning – we’re focusing on standardization; and customization to meet learning needs is what ought to drive us and not standardization of facilities.”
As long as the regulation establishes minimum standards, Holliday said the more streamlined approval process will not result in a hodgepodge of different school buildings. There would still be a system like the current project application forms (BG-1s), but, he added, “It would free up a lot of the minutia in the BG process.”
The commissioner noted the department doesn’t have the level of staff needed to handle the detail the regulation currently requires. Some smaller districts need more support and help reviewing their building plans, he added, but larger districts “have more staff than we’ve got.”