Fayette County Public Schools Votes to Move STEAM Academy

Published online Dec. 6, 2017 11:40 a.m.

Updated Dec. 7, 2017 4:30 a.m.

FCPS Purchases Previous Home of Imani Family Life Center from Central Bank

In a unanimous vote, Fayette County Board of Education members agreed to permanently move the STEAM Academy to the Cooper Drive Bluegrass Community and Technical College location.

STEAM Academy, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, opened in 2013 and is now located in the old Johnson Elementary School building on East Sixth Street in downtown Lexington. Using a “small school” model, only 150 students are admitted into each grade 9-12. The new location will not increase the 600-maximum student enrollment at STEAM.

According to Lisa Deffendall, FCPS spokesperson, the school has not yet reached capacity and currently has 327 students enrolled. Down from 407 last year.

“This has been a priority for our school district for years,” said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent (FCPS) Manny Caulk. “Even before I was hired, our staff has been working diligently behind the scenes, investigating leads and visiting potential sites. I’m thrilled to tell our students, staff and families at STEAM Academy that they will be in their new facilities soon.”

Two actions were taken related to the relocation of STEAM:

  • Empowered the superintendent to negotiate a lease agreement with Bluegrass Community and Technical College for 50,000 square feet of its Cooper Drive property as BCTC operations are moving to its new campus on Newtown Pike.
  • Purchased the former home of Imani Family Life Center, a 113,000 square-foot building on 22 acres of land at 1555 Georgetown Road for $10.6 million.

Beginning in the 2018-19 school year, 10-12 graders of STEAM will meet on the Cooper Drive campus of BCTC.

Freshmen will remain at the Academy on Sixth until renovations are complete on Georgetown Rd., at which time class will begin there.

“Bringing the STEAM Academy students onto the Cooper Campus addresses students’ individual needs and gives them extra support to be successful,” Bluegrass Community and Technical College President/CEO Augusta A. Julian said.

A press release from FCPS stated STEAM Academy principal Tina Stevenson was thrilled with the board’s action.  “We are very excited to have a permanent location for STEAM Academy. The location of both campuses will provide STEAM students and staff with optimal access to both Bluegrass Community and Technical College and the University of Kentucky,” she said. “We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with both institutions.”

The Georgetown Road Property

Supt. Caulk noted that the acquisition of the building at 1555 Georgetown Road will meet several identified facilities needs for the district. The location will be a multi-use facility and will also house the district’s re-engagement and dropout prevention academy that is still in the planning stages.

In June 2016, The Key Newsjournal was the first to report that Rev. Willis Polk was in a battle with Central Bank to hold onto their expansive property on the outer edge of the Lexington’s west end.

At that time, the property was not in foreclosure, however Rev. Polk said that Central Bank offered few options to satisfy their $10.2 million debt on the 2012 refinanced project.

“They’ve offered a ‘deed in lieu of foreclosure’ deal or come up with a plan to catch up.’’ Polk said.

‘Deed in lieu of foreclosure’, would have transferred ownership of the Georgetown St. property to Central Bank to pay off their loan and avoid the foreclosure process.

Polk sought out long term tenants for the property, naming Fayette County Public Schools in 2016 as a possible tenant.

In a statement for this article, the district confirmed that they were in negotiations with Imani  before auction.

The Key Newsjournal initially reported that unnamed sources said FCPS offered $11.4 million, but the district vehemently denies that amount calling it “absolutely false.”

“Although both Imani Family Life Center and FCPS agreed to keep negotiations for the potential purchase of this property confidential, it has become necessary to set the record straight and ensure our community has correct information. At no time did FCPS offer or agree to pay $11.4 million for the property,” according to the official response provided to The Key Newsjournal.

On October 16th, the church was auctioned and sold to the sole bidder, lender Central Bank for $10.5 million.

FCPS will purchase the property for $10.6 million

Despite interest, the district did not bid because Kentucky Department of Education discourages districts from acquiring property through auction according to a statement supplied by the district.

The district has a $12 million renovation budget for the former Imani property.

Central Bank has not yet responded to comment for this article.