Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 13, 2012

Cause for pride

After years of waiting, new Boyd County High to open

The Independent

ASHLAND — The completion of something that has been planned and anticipated for well more than a decade will be celebrated Thursday when the new Boyd County High School is officially dedicated in a ceremony beginning at 6 p.m. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday plans to travel from Frankfort to be on hand for the celebration.

A large gathering of Boyd County residents also should there because it will give them their first opportunity to tour the newest high school in Kentucky. We are confident they will be impressed.

Classes will begin in the new school after the Christmas break, and administrators, teachers, staff and students can hardly wait. The current high school is located directly across Ky. 180 from the current high school, and for more than a year, teachers and students have watched the new school being built on the hill across the highway in increasing anticipation of when it will open. Well, the wait is almost over.

Boyd County school administrators first began expressing the need for a new high school more than 25 years ago, but the closing of five aging elementary schools, the construction of Ponderosa Elementary and the renovation of Summit Elementary had a higher priority, as did the closing of the old Catlettsburg Middle School. Until all those changes were made, construction of a new high school remained on the backburner.

In those early years, progress on the new school was so slow it was nearly nonexistent. Ironically, State Rep. Rocky Adkins used his considerable political skills to secure state funding for a bridge across East Fork to reach the property for the new high school from Ky. 180. The bridge was built and for more than a decade it truly was a “bridge to nowhere.”  Since there was no road up to either side of the span, it was for years just a bridge that existed for no apparent reason.

But Boyd County school leaders and teachers saw the bridge as a sign of a brighter future. They knew that when this “bridge to nowhere” finally did go somewhere it would be to a state-of-the-art high school that will be the envy school districts throughout the region.

Boyd County High School Principal Rhonda Salisbury has a bold prediction about the response of first-time visitors to the new school: “It will take your breath away. When you come around to the main entrance, there’s a huge circle. You walk through the lobby and you’re in the media center, which is the heart of everything.”

Embossed on cornices ringing the library are the names of Boyd County communities, what Salisbury calls “a real celebration of our community.”

The new school also has state-of-the-art kitchen facilities for the culinary program. A 450-seat auditorium will provide an excellent setting for plays, musicals, and band and choral concerts. The schools music and drama departments should be greatly enhanced by the new building.

The gymnasium includes an upper-level walking track that will be available for public use. The gym also has two new scoreboards and is flanked by training and weight rooms.

The school is designed on an academy concept, so one wing will be mainly devoted to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the other to general academic courses. There also is a freshman academy.

To enhance security the school has a network of about 100 security cameras all linked to a monitoring station in the office complex. The school also is built to be energy efficient, something that has increased the cost of construction but will save the district many thousands of dollars in utility bills over the life of the school.

While touring the new high school Thursday, people should take time to congratulate Boyd County Schools Superintendent Howard K. Osborne on being one of two educators honored by the Kentucky School Boards Association with its Kids First Advocacy Awards. Since becoming superintendent in 2005, Osborne has worked tirelessly to improve the school district. Not waiting for a science and technology magnet high school serving gifted high school students from Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Lawrence and Elliott counties to at the Roberts Drive campus of Ashland Community and Technical College to become a reality, Boyd County High School under the leadership of Osborne and Salisbury launched its own STEMSā€ˆacademic program allowing students to earn college credits while in high school.

With state funding for new school construction flat, Osborne in 2008 convinced the Boyd County school board to approve a nickel increase in Boyd County property taxes to pay for the new school. That that tax hike was approved without loud protests from county residents is a tribute to Osborne’s leadership and to the commitment of school board members to improving the educational opportunities of students. With a new school and a more demanding academic program, it is now up to the students to seize the tremendous  opportunity given them .

 No one can ever accuse Boyd County school officials of moving too rapidly to build a new high school. They waited patiently for years until all the obstacles standing in the way of a new school — with the primary one being funding — were scaled. Their patience and perseverance are about to be rewarded with a new school that should rightly become a source of community pride.