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November 10, 2015

Administrators: Taylor Middle the top priority

There are a lot of variables, which is why we really want to make sure that community members are a part of that.
— School board member Brian Gorg (Center District)
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Taylor Middle School in Warrenton should undergo major renovation or replacement, administrators have recommended.

The costs would range from an estimated $27.5 million for renovation and expansion to $33.6 million for a new school on the 12-acre campus along East Shirley Avenue. A new school would stand just south of the existing structure, with new parking in front, according to an architecture firm’s concept.

Superintendent David Jeck shared the recommendations at the school board’s annual retreat Saturday at the Inn at Kelly’s Ford in Culpeper County.

For years, the board has wrestled with options for Warrenton’s two aging middle schools. Warrenton Middle School dates to 1934. Built as Fauquier’s high school for black students during segregation, William C. Taylor opened in 1951. County schools integrated 18 years later.

Both schools underwent renovation and expansion in the 1980s.

A year ago, the school board opted for more investigation when it considered a $56-million estimate to again renovate Taylor and Warrenton.

Updated annually, the county capital improvements plan includes only $20 million through fiscal 2020 to address the needs at the two schools.

Both have structural issues; obsolete mechanical, plumbing and heating/cooling systems; poor parking and traffic flow; security challenges; poor access for handicapped people, and other problems, according to architectural studies and maintenance supervisors.

Following last fall’s discussion, Chesapeake-based RRMM Architects completed detailed studies of both schools and completed its report in August. The school board recently received that document.

The architects recommend building two new schools at a total cost of $67.2 million.

Taylor’s needs eclipse those of Warrenton Middle School, according to Dr. Jeck.

It would cost an estimated $23.4 million to renovate and expand Warrenton Middle School or $33.6 million to replace it. The county’s oldest school, Warrenton stands on 18 acres along Waterloo Street.

The architects’ conceptual drawing shows a new school on Benner Field, back from Waterloo Street. Tennis courts, a ballfield and parking lots would move closer to the street.

But, the school board wants to study options carefully before deciding what to do. Any major project also would require the board of supervisors to approve funding. And both five-member boards will undergo changes in January.

Suzanne Sloane will succeed Maureen Riordan as Scott District’s school board representative. Meanwhile, three new supervisors will take office: Rick Gerhardt (Cedar Run), Chris Butler (Lee) and Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall).

“Staff will recommend that they will start with Taylor, but that’s not cast in stone,” school board Chairman Sheryl Wolfe (Lee) said.

“What we decided to do is form a committee, made up of a wide range of people in the community from parents to staff and architects. We are going to have them study the issues,” Ms. Wolfe explained. They will “bring in experts and issues and come up with what to do with those two schools.”

School board members will make the final decision.

“There’s a lot that we are looking at,” Brian Gorg (Center) said. “There are a lot of variables, which is why we really want to make sure that community members are a part of that.”

The board wants to continue operating five middle schools, according to Mr. Gorg.

“We want to make sure middle schools have smaller class sizes and equalization of programming across the county,” he added.

Options floated have included selling the Warrenton campus and building a new school elsewhere, but there seems to be little interest in that.

History and tradition, along with money, will play roles in whatever leaders decide.

Taylor this fall has 481 students and capacity for 520.

Warrenton has 438 students and capacity for 518.

Enrollment projections remain flat for the next decade.

Middle School Master Planning SB Retreat Nov 2015 Final by Fauquier Now

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Anton Afterwit · November 15, 2015 at 2:22 pm
I see how well this is being advertised by all the excitement and interest from the public. Do they think their responsibility ends at the ballot box? I hope the various political groups are passing this information out to all of their constituents. Sad.
Tell It Like It Is · November 13, 2015 at 10:47 am
AA,
Excellent points and I agree. Are the voters considering business backgrounds in our elected school board members? Not sure. If not then has the FCSB considered reaching out to the business community to form a committee to assist them to analyze and manage multi-million dollar major business and corporate level budgets?
Your well stated points should hit home to readers!
Anton Afterwit · November 12, 2015 at 10:41 pm
The first question a Citizen should be asking is, “What was the planned obsolescence of the buildings when they were built and expanded?” The next question is, “Where is the money that was supposed to be put into the capital savings plan to deal with the obsolescence of the buildings?”

Since we are not dealing with a growth factor (hopefully we have a capital budget plan for that as well), this is a pure question of what planning was made in the 1980s and where is the money that should have been put in for capital improvements or expansion in the future. With modern construction starting in the 1950s being of such technology as 100 years before obsolescence is normal, why are we looking at less than 35 years since the last project?

The next question I would want to know is, “If the enrollment is planned to be flat (or a decrease as some suggest) over the next 10 years, why do we need to expand the schools now?

Lastly, “Is the deterioration shown a result of inadequate maintenance and what is being done to make sure this does not continue to happen in the future?” Some of the damage show looks like things that routine maintenance should have prevented or are part of routine maintenance. Proper painting, cleaning, and caulking (you have to re-caulk from time to time and every homeowner knows that), may have prevented a lot of the damage we are seeing. Is the maintenance crew not performing the required maintenance?

Before we start planning on how we can build a bunch of new buildings, maybe the School Board needs to start doing the proper planning for Capital Expenditure and maintenance so the Board does not keep coming back to the taxpayers and asking for money. And maybe the School Board needs to review the actual maintenance that is done on the buildings instead of just using standard maintenance issues as proof of building obsolescence.

Hopefully we have a newly elected School Board that will focus on important topics such as TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), Building Lifecycle Maintenance and Management, along with Capital Planning. They should also be looking a lot harder at the projections as they seem to be a lot higher that the averages. With planned capacity of 1000 students, the average cost per student in Virginia appears to be $33,000 per pupil, so building two new buildings should not exceed 33 million, so why is the estimate almost twice that? And how is it that Wise County can build schools for under $30,000 per student but our cost in Fauquier is $67,000 per student, more than double the price.

Things just don’t seem to be adding up.
Tell It Like It Is · November 12, 2015 at 8:53 am
This is always an interesting and complicated subject. Renovation or rebuilding bids may be solicited looking for the lowest possible cost. Thus a bid may be given knowing that any little thing missed in what a contract specified, or that may not have been well documented can very easily turn into a "carte blanche" billing scenario a contract price increase at the taxpayers expense. Face it, who's gonna switch contractors in the middle of a project like that?

Personally I thought building a new FHS as opposed to renovating and then renovating the old FHS and merging WMS and TMS to that facility. Then turning the WMS facility to County offices, courts, zoning, police offices, whatever thus moving traffic and other old town government facilities outward but still in Town limits.

a) We could have already had the new HS
b) Been able to take the time needed while unoccupied to do a better job renovating the old FHS to the needs of the two middle schools.
c) The traffic issues would have been resolved moving the middle schools outbound.
d) The FCSB bus garage could have used the ball field space at WMS to expand its facility thus saving the cost of moving that facility.
e) More space for a growing county admin, police, courts, zoning, whatever.
f) and several other sensible reasons in my opinion.
Blah, blah, blah, too late now and who pays for decisions good or bad?
Just bill the taxpayers.
rally39 · November 11, 2015 at 10:12 am
I like the idea of building new schools at both sites...however the access to Taylor should be removed from Shirley Avenue and rerouted to Alwington Blvd. We are going to see an increase in traffic on East Shirley once the Arrington property project and the Assisted Living facility is completed at the American Legion property....I understand that school buses would still travel Shirley Ave...but remove the ingress/egress choke points off this already congested corridor
John Green · November 11, 2015 at 10:08 am
My hope is the community will take greater interest in updating these two schools than they did in the FHS renovation. I well remember the joint School Board/Supervisor meeting where the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors said only $25M was available for the project, can you do the renovation for that amount? Dr. Lewis and the School Board put their heads together for a moment and then said yes. In the end the cost was $36M but millions of dollars of proposed renovations were removed to bring the price down but those items still had to be accomplished. Since the official completion of FHS Renovations the items removed have been accomplished through the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Take a look at the school budgets since the official completion and you will see millions more spent to renovate FHS, well above the announced $36M. Let me give you one example: Most of FHS needed a new roof before the renovation but it was not included in the plan cost, it was picked up in the year to year CIP school budget. This was all legal but the public was mislead to what the actual cost would be to complete the renovation. If the public had been fully involved, not just those who wanted special features included, the whole project might have turned out differently. My only advice is for the public to be fully involved in all that our government does. You cannot elect and forget. John Green
lhfry · November 11, 2015 at 9:58 am
Has anyone considered moving middle school students to existing elementary schools? There really is no reason to have separate facilities for children in grades 6-8. Middle schools have been the weakest link in our educational system since the artificially determined category of "middle schoolers" was created. And in an era of declining enrollment, why are we not considering alternatives to new buildings? See: http://educationnext.org/the-middle-school-mess/
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