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September 12, 2018

School board will revisit Taylor Middle renovation

File photo/Lawrence Emerson
Parking and access rank among the issues at Taylor Middle School, built in 1951.
Two Aging Schools
> Taylor Middle

• Where: 350 E. Shirley Ave.

• Built: 1951, with addition in 1981.

• Enrollment: 462

• Capacity: 547

• Building: 93,000 square feet.

• Acres: 12

• Parking spaces: 58

> Warrenton Middle

• Where: 244 Waterloo St.

• Built: 1934, with addition in 1981.

• Enrollment: 407

• Capacity: 545

• Building: 94,000 square feet.

• Acres: 18

• Parking spaces: 103
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Fauquier’s school board Monday night unanimously agreed to abandon the bidding process for a new, consolidated middle school in Warrenton.

The school board instead will take another look at renovating Taylor Middle.

“The RFP (request for proposal), as far as I’m concerned, is dead in the water,” said Duke Bland (Marshall District).

In January, Fauquier’s school system issued a request for proposals from architectural and engineering firms for an 800-student building, with the ability to expand to 950 on the Taylor campus along West Shirley Avenue in Warrenton.

Under that “prototypical” plan — based on a building already constructed elsewhere — the building would have replaced Taylor and Warrenton middle schools, built in 1951 and 1934, respectively.

Without setting a budget for the project, the school board unanimously decided last November to seek new proposals after months of failing to reach an agreement with the county board of supervisors for funding construction of a new school.

But, the school board will abandon that plan due to a new challenge on the property: the presence of a 500-year floodplain.

“Why are we here again? We’re here because of the floodplain. We voted on something we wanted and now we can’t do that,” school board member Suzanne Sloane (Scott) said Monday night.

The county’s supervisors in June amended Fauquier’s comprehensive plan, which states: “School facilities should be designed on sites that will allow for future expansion . . . respecting environmental elements such as the 100-year and 500-year floodplains.”

Most of the Taylor property behind the existing school lies within a 500-year floodplain.

“In the last couple months we got word that the Taylor site wasn’t suitable (for a new building) because of the floodplain,” school board Chairwoman Donna Grove (Cedar Run District) said. “This we didn’t know until July.”

The school board — at least officially — has remained steadfast in its preference for a new middle school on the Taylor campus.

“Initially, I was a huge proponent of building a new, consolidated school on the Taylor site . . . I’m still in favor of building a new, consolidated school. However, I think we also need to look at reality,” Mr. Bland said.

“The reality in my mind is we have greater forces working against us instead of with us. I think we are backed into a corner and don’t have much choice but to consider the renovation of the two existing schools,” he added. “Is it the best scenario? In my mind, no.”

School board member Brian Gorg (Center) agreed.

“Is renovation the best option, no, but the best option is not always available to us because of funding capacity,” Mr. Gorg said. “I think it is a viable option . . . to look at these schools for renovation.”

The county’s capital improvements plan includes $33 million for the renovation and/or expansion of middle schools in Warrenton.

“I think we need to be careful with putting everything just into those two schools,” Mr. Gorg said. “Some of the renovations are systems renovations that we could look at through an ESCO (building energy savings) type program.

“I don’t think there are that many students at both those schools who are suffering from an education perspective,” Mr. Gorg said. “I do think those buildings have heating and cooling issues, systems issues, security issues and (vehicle) ingress, egress issues.”

“I think most people would be fairly happy and pretty proud of it with some of that renovation,” he added.

School administrators will compile a list of needed renovations at Taylor Middle and soon discuss it with school board members. Then, staff will discuss long term plans for Warrenton, Cedar Lee and Auburn middle schools.

“The reasonable starting place would be to look at Taylor,” Superintendent David Jeck said. “What are the pieces that must occur to make it a suitable place for kids, address safety issues, the entrance, and then wrap that around an RFP potentially.”

The board of supervisors, which controls funding, will have the final say.

Middle school project timeline

• August 2015
RRMM architects and consultants release modernization studies on Taylor and Warrenton middle schools with estimated renovation and replacement costs.

• November 2015
School administrators decide Taylor Middle has top priority for renovation or replacement.

• August 25, 2016
The 45-member middle school planning committee meets for the first time to discuss renovation or new construction.

• October 27, 2016
Middle school committee, under direction of the school system and architects, shifts focus to consolidation of Taylor and Warrenton.

• December 7, 2016
The committee recommends consolidated school on the Taylor site.

• January 19, 2017
Board of supervisors expresses skepticism about the committee’s recommendation for a consolidated school.

• January 31, 2017
School board agrees to pursue 1,000-seat, $55-million middle school in Warrenton.

• February 1, 2017
County supervisors deem the proposal too expensive.

• February 21, 2017
Meeting with the supervisors, the school board insists the $55 million consolidated middle school plan makes the most sense.

• March 6, 2017
School board proposes an alternative, $43.3-million plan for a 950-seatbuilding on the Taylor site.

• March 22, 2017
Supervisors reject $43 million plan.

• March 28, 2017
County supervisors adopt fiscal 2018 budget with $33 million planned for middle school project.

• April 4, 2017
Two supervisors and two school board members discuss the project at a committee meeting; supervisors suggest looking at other renovation options.

• April 17, 2017
School board agrees to ask consultants for more information about 800-student renovated school at Warrenton compared to 800-student new school at Taylor.

• July 26, 2017
School board receives new consultant report on Warrenton Middle renovation with three options: $33.5 million to retain and renovate all of Warrenton Middle; $44.8 million to retain, renovate and expand Warrenton Middle; $45.4 million build a new, 800-student middle school on Taylor campus.

• August 4, 2017
School board agrees to ask the supervisors to take the plan for a $45.4-million consolidated school on Taylor site to a referendum, which county voters would decide.

• September 7, 2017
County supervisors and school board meet and discuss referendum, middle school proposals.

• September 14, 2017
In a letter to the school board, the county board of supervisors offers to fund expansion and renovation of Warrenton Middle School, but not construction of a replacement.

• September 18, 2017
School board slams the letter from supervisors.

• November 2017
School board unanimously agrees to solicit bids for the new middle school without setting a budget for the project.

• January 10, 2018
School system solicits proposals from architectural and/or engineering firms for an 800-student prototypical building with the ability to expand to 950 students.

• February 28, 2018
School system receives 16 proposals from firms.

• April 2018
Nine-member anonymous committee and County Procurement Manager Sue Monaco cut potential firms to five.

• August 28, 2018
School board discusses next steps and impact of 500-year flood plain on request for proposals for Taylor site.

• September 10, 2018
School board agrees to cancel RFP for new, consolidated school on Taylor site and reconsider renovation of that school.
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Rover 530 · September 14, 2018 at 10:03 am
This is an outrageous decision (or no decision). 500-year floodplain! Renovate buildings way past their prime usefulness?
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