The Next Chapter

From left are Neely Quint (Heath), Kennedy Powers (Reidland), Brandon Morehead (Heath), McCracken County Public Schools Superintendent Nancy Waldrop, McCracken County High School Principal Michael Ceglinski, Jacob Hyde (Lone Oak), Noah Wilkins (Reidland), and Oliver Fell (Lone Oak).

County students will join forces as they begin a new chapter of academic offerings at McCracken County High School next fall.

McCracken County High School will open in August 2013. For six years, McCracken County school officials have planned to consolidate Heath, Lone Oak, and Reidland high schools. Approximately 1,800 students will enjoy the new $55 million facility.

Featuring an instructional design known as “small learning communities,” students will be assigned to one of the school’s five sections or “houses,” where they will take their core academic classes for all four years. They will participate in numerous elective course offerings with students from other houses within the school. Houses will contain fewer than 400 students, allowing students to keep the feeling of a small school inside the larger structure.

“What we’re able to accomplish by the very design of the building lends itself to the feeling of a very small community where relationships can be formed,” says Superintendent Dr. Nancy Waldrop.

McCracken County High School will provide enhanced opportunities for students, including 25 Advanced Placement courses, Project Lead the Way engineering and biomedical science classes, as well as numerous dual credit courses and career certification programs. School facilities include a state-of-the-art media center, an 800-seat performing arts center, a 3400-seat arena, a 5k cross-country track, an 8-court tennis complex, baseball, softball, soccer and football fields on-site and a plaza adjacent to the cafeteria so students can eat lunch in the fresh air and sunshine.

McCracken County schools have dealt with overcrowding for years, with many utilizing mobile classroom units for extra space. With the opening of McCracken County High School, elementary schools in the Lone Oak area will reconfigure, placing preschool-3rd grade in the existing elementary school facilities, 4-5 grade in the existing middle school facility, and 6-8 grade in the existing high school building. The long-range plan calls for this same reconfiguration in the Heath and Reidland areas the following school year.

The project has not moved forward without opposition. Waldrop, herself a graduate of Lone Oak High School, says some residents who grew up in the area understandably feel strong attachments to their alma maters and the traditions and identities of the three communities.

However, Dr. Waldrop also says many of the current students would like to move into the building tomorrow. While the students plan to honor many of the traditions from the three high schools, they also look forward to creating new traditions as they unite at McCracken County High School.

This excitement from the students, along with the school’s innovative design, leads Dr. Waldrop to believe McCracken County High School will play a major role in the development of education in this region. “We will be, without a doubt, a landmark school regionally, if not nationally,” she says. “Our high school will be a leader beyond this region.”

Waldrop believes that McCracken County High School will be attractive to major businesses looking to develop operations in Paducah. She says that before employers think about moving their operations into the area, they check out the local school system. An improvement in schools could mean a boost in the local economy

“We want to share with them (employers) our progressive community and the depth that our community values education,” Waldrop says. “Strong school districts support economic development, business industry and…the quality of life in our community.”

School officials look forward to opening McCracken County High School to the students and community in the fall of 2013.