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Cordia School, Hazard, Ky.

Judge blocks state of Kentucky from closing K-12 campus in Hazard

The state education commissioner had ordered the Knott County district to close Cordia School because of health and safety concerns.

A judge in Kentucky has blocked state officials from closing a school in Hazard over safety concerns about the facility.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Cordia School in the Knott County district will remain open after Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip J. Shepherd issued a restraining order to prevent the closing.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen L. Pruitt  had decided in January that students would not be allowed to occupy the Cordia building after Feb. 2 because of health and safety deficiencies.

The school has about 230 students in grades K through 12. It is owned by a non-profit organization called Lotts Creek Community School Inc., which leases the building to the Knott County school board. The board provides teachers and other staff for the school.

The facility problems that Pruitt cited in calling for Cordia to close include damage to the roof of a multipurpose room that created a risk of collapse; fire-safety and electrical problems; inadequate water pressure; food-safety violations; the failure of a heating unit; and structural failure of the gym foundation and wall.

The school and two parents sued to block the closure. Parents expressed concern that having to move their children to other schools during the academic year would be disruptive and necessitate long bus rides for many students.

Cordia’s owner also says it had made or arranged to make repairs, but that Pruitt had not allowed enough time for the work to be completed.

Judge Shepherd ruled in his order that there is a significant question on whether Pruitt has authority to approve the lease between the Knott County school board and Lotts Creek, and if he has authority to withdraw approval without due process for Cordia’s owner.

The judge says he shares the state's concern over safety issues at the school, but noted an official from the state Fire Marshal’s Office said Cordia is working to fix problems.

A hearing on Feb. 14 will determine if the judge will grant a longer-term injunction blocking the closure. The school will stay open at least through then.

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