When Don Groves hired on with the Boyd County school system in 1956, the district’s high school didn’t have indoor restrooms.
Instead, he recalled there was an outhouse with a divider down the middle — one side was for boys, the other for girls.
How things have changed since then.
On Thursday, Groves was one of the special honorees at the dedication ceremony for Boyd County’s new, state-of-the-art, 124,000 square-foot, $42 million high school. Groves still works as a custodian for the school system, and when students begin attenting classes at the new school in January, he will have worked at three different high schools during his career.
Hundreds packed the gymnasium of the new school for the ceremony. Officials dubbed the celebration one of the community and of the spirit of cooperation and teamwork that resulted in the school finally getting built after years of a new high school for the district seeming like little more than a pipe dream.
“When I first took this job, I promised two things: That I’d raise achievement and that I’d build you a new high school,” Superintendent Howard K. Osborne told the crowd. “I had no clue whether I was actually going to be able to do either one.”
The new school would never have become a reality, Osborne said, without the vision and the guidance of the board of education and the assistance of Northeastern Kentucky’s legislative delegation, House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins in particular. Adkins was the recipient of “many late night phone calls” during the course of the project, he said.
To recognize the key role Adkins played in the project, which included securing building funds from the state to match those raised through a local levy, Osborne announced the portion of the school in which the crowd was assembled would be named the Adkins Gymnasium and Athletic Complex.
Adkins, who called the dedication ceremony one of the most special and memorable events of his 26-year legislative career, was clearly touched by the honor and said he had no idea it was coming.
“Old, worn-out point guards and house majority floor leaders aren’t very often at a loss for words, but this is one time I am,” he said. “I’m humbled to have this gym named after me.
Adkins called the new school a “state-of-the-art, world-class facility” that will shape young lives and serve the community for decades to come.
“We’ve earned this, we deserve this and we ought to be proud,” he said. “When people work together, great things happen. And because people worked together, we sit here tonight.”
Adkins said he also had a personal stake in seeing the project to completion. His daughter, Tori, is currently a third-grader at Ponderosa Elementary “and she’ll be a Lion right here in this facility in just a few years,” he said.
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said he was highly impressed with the vision of Osborne and of the school board, and with community for its willingness to pay the additional taxes necessary to get the new high school built, even with the economy struggling.
“There’s some tough times out there, but you rose to the challenge,” he said. “You said, ‘We need to do this for the future of our children.’”
Holliday said he fully expected to return to BCHS in the not-too-distant future to present the school with an award for being among the top institutions in the state in terms of preparing students for college and careers.
The school is designed on an academy concept, which will enable students to pursue a designated career path, Osborne said. Students also will be able to take up 70 hours of college courses through Morehead State University tuition-free, he said.
Because of the academy concept design, the school has one entire wing mainly devoted to science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses. There’s also a freshman academy, located in a set of classrooms near the office complex, making it more secure for first-year students.
Osborne said the new school’s science labs would be “the envy of the state of Kentucky.”
Other features of the new high school include a state-of-the-art kitchen to house its culinary program and a 450-seat auditorium with a theater-style marquee. Osborne announced the latter would be dubbed the Boyd County High School Alumni Performing Arts Center.
The new school is located on a hillside overlooking Ky. 180, on the opposite side of the road from the facility it replaces, which opened in 1957.
State Rep, Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, a 1980 BCHS graduate, recalled how the bridge over East Fork that leads to the new high school was ridiculed as “a bridge to nowhere” when it was constructed a few years ago.
“That ‘bridge to nowhere’ is now a bridge to the endless possibilities our children can achieve in this facility,” he said.
Osborne said the Boyd Fiscal Court and Judge-Executive William “Bud” Stevens played crucial roles in the project. The access road to the new school was built by the Boyd County Road Department, he said.
He also said the school system had already purchased 124 acres of land surrounding the new school, which he said should be sufficient to serve the district’s building needs well into the future.
According to Osborne, the completion of the new school isn’t an end, but a beginning. Plans already are in the works for new athletic facilities as well as a regional technology center, he said.
KENNETH HART can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2654.