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March 6, 2017

Board slices $12 million from middle school request

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
School board members Duke Bland, Don Mason and Suzanne Sloane make their case for a $55-million, consolidated middle school during a Feb. 21 meeting with the board of supervisors, which controls funding.
New Proposal
• Build: 950-student middle school on Taylor MS campus along East Shirley Avenue in Warrenton.

• Consolidate: Taylor and Warrenton middle schools, which have 547 and 545 students, respectively.

• Costs: Estimated $43.3 million, including demolition of Taylor.

• Start construction: March 2018.

• Open school: January 2020.

• Design: Adapt existing “prototype” plans, starting in July.

• Features: 36 classrooms, flexible space, 450-seat gym and auxiliary gym, library, lecture hall and separate wings or “houses” for Grades 6, 7 and 8.

• Size: 141,000 square feet in two-story building.

• Funding: 90 percent from board of supervisors and 10 percent from school board.

• Next: Board of supervisors would have to agree for proposal to move forward. To meet school board’s proposed schedule, the supervisors also would need to modify their policy that requires a voter referendum for any project that costs $25 million or more.

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Staff Journalist
Fauquier’s school board Monday night cut $12 million from the estimated cost of one of the most expensive construction projects in county history.

The board voted, 5-0, to ask the county supervisors to approve taxpayer funding for a $43.3-million consolidated middle school in Warrenton.

> Summary at bottom of story

The supervisors had balked at a $55-million plan.

Under the latest proposal, construction would start in March 2018, and the school on East Shirley Avenue would open in January 2020.

The new building, on Taylor Middle School’s campus, would accommodate 950 students, 50 fewer than the original plan.

Accelerating the project, with design starting in July, would save an estimated $5.2 million through avoided inflation or “escalation.” Fauquier also would save millions using a “prototype” rather than designing the school from scratch.

Additionally, the size of the school would contract to 141,000 square feet — down 17,000 square feet from the previous proposal.

The plan would require the county supervisors — who provide most of the funding — to change their policy that requires a voter referendum for any project costing more than $25 million.

The school board would have responsibility for 10 percent of the total cost.

The two boards will meet Thursday to discuss the middle school project. After a Feb. 21 meeting, the boards remained at an impasse. The school board unanimously insisted the $55-million plan represented the best option — rather than renovating or replacing Taylor or Warrenton Middle School.

The supervisors, however, balked and cited other governmental needs that will raise the real estate tax rate in coming years.

“The price tag is challenging,” Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall District) said last month. “I’m supportive of getting something done for the middle schools . . . leaving enough room for other things we need to accomplish.”

The school board quickly pivoted to the less expensive alternative during Monday night’s special meeting.

“This is all time sensitive,” school board member Duke Bland (Marshall District) said of the aggressive schedule.

During Monday night’s discussion, the board also agreed to remove a 450-seat auditorium from the proposal and replace it with a small lecture hall, flexible space and more storage. Administrators and board members Monday night noted that none of the other three middle schools has an auditorium. Built as high schools, Taylor and Warrenton have them.

The school would have a 450-seat gymnasium and an alternative gym, according to the concept that Duane Harver of RRMM Architects showed the board.

“Many of the things in this prototype are things that the committee and school board favored, but the price tag is significantly less,” Superintendent David Jeck said.

For instance, the school would have flexible learning spaces, with Grades 6-8 separated by “houses” or wings.

After construction of the new building, Taylor would get demolished at an estimated cost of $2.5 million — included in the overall budget proposal.

The school board’s previous plan for a $55-million, 1,000-student building emerged from a 45-member committee’s work last fall. The school board formally endorsed that concept Jan. 31.

For years, studies have considered options for the aging schools — Taylor, built as a high school for black students in 1951, and Warrenton, built as a high school in 1934.

The county has about $80 million worth of debt for school projects: Fauquier High, Kettle Run High and Greenville Elementary.

With flat enrollment projected to continue for the next decade, Fauquier has five middle schools: Auburn, Cedar Lee, Marshall, Taylor and Warrenton.

If the consolidation moves forward, the county would have four middle schools.

The new proposal would add about 4 cents to the county real estate tax rate of $1.039 per $100 assessed value. It would cost the owner of an average home an additional $128 a year in real estate taxes.

Middle school modernization__Prototype presentation by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Rover 530 · March 11, 2017 at 9:03 pm
BJ and Savethehyenas have innovative ideas that are worthy of exploring. Definitely out of the box. WMS is a solid building with many upgrades. If used by the Library, the auditorium could be used for cultural lectures and other informational fora. Former classrooms could be organized by Library Classification. If used by the post office, there would be great parking and plenty of room for storage of mail. Good ideas!
Savethehyenas · March 9, 2017 at 8:26 am
How much is Warrenton Middle worth? Sell it to a Private school,convert it to a library, or market it to an institution looking to open a satellite campus and use the funds to recoup some of the costs associated with the new middle school.Flat enrollment for a decade??? -That research must have been really flawed - Lowering capacity is not the answer neither is scrapping out important Auditorium ,with the current rate of new homes you will have one overcrowded school within a few years and spend much more than what you are trying to save now in expansion costs.rather spend money on design phase to get the project right than learning later the cost of design mistakes like the Opal overpass.
Jim Griffin · March 9, 2017 at 7:22 am
As regards the "broadband obsession" described by the pseudononymous "fauquierflash," know this:

Much of the angst arises from families with children assigned internet-based homework and learning that they simply cannot address without access to data. Indeed, our schools themselves need more bandwidth, an issue that can be addressed by our county with this proposed program.

Neither is it proposed that this broadband money arrives in a single year, nor does the proposal spend without a plan for recompense.

Penny wise, pound foolish to focus on one without the other. Indeed, every librarian I know focuses now on expanded data access to media, including our county and school librarians.

Library, schools, data -- all part and parcel of the same issue, access to knowledge, just as was once voice communications, highways and electricity.

Balance, progress, all go hand in hand.
fauquierflash · March 8, 2017 at 2:28 pm
How's this for an idea. Scrape the $20 Million Broadband obsession and build the School with all the essentials as needed and put the extra $8 mill towards the Library wherever that is.Warrenton Middle School has some merits along with other needs there.

Tell It Like It Is · March 8, 2017 at 8:03 am
Post Office and Library ........ hummmm ....... not a bad idea to give some thought on.
BJ · March 7, 2017 at 5:14 pm
Warrenton Middle School would make a wonderful place for the library by using the funds earmarked to build a new library to renovate the school. Or use it to consolidate the Post Office, by moving the PO on Main Street and the receiving area near Comfort Inn into one operation.
Tell It Like It Is · March 7, 2017 at 8:54 am
A agree with Mr. Aiello in that cutting space for the arts is a mistake. It continues to be proven that kids in arts programs do better scholastically. So why are we cutting the arts spaces/programs? Why do we need two gyms??
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