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May 16, 2017

Warrenton MS expansion back under consideration

File Photo/Cassandra Brown
Built in 1936, Warrenton Middle School has just one vehicle access on Waterloo Street.
“We’re exploring all options. We’re doing the collaborative work that needs to be done to work with the board of supervisors.
— School board Chairman Brian Gorg
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Built 81 years ago, Warrenton Middle School might get renovated and expanded after all.

That had seemed unlikely since October.

A 45-member committee recommended building a 1,000-student consolidated school. It would stand on the Taylor Middle School campus along Shirley Avenue and would absorb WMS students.

The school board endorsed that $55-million plan Jan. 31. It resulted from a $138,000 study and consultants’ work with the committee of citizens, elected officials, parents and school system employees.

But, the county board of supervisors — which controls funding — balked at the cost and the continued bussing of students to balance enrollment among five campuses that serve sixth- through eighth-graders.

Disappointed, school officials regrouped this spring. The school system will pay up to $15,000 more to RRMM architects to study two additional plans for consolidation of TMS and WMS:

• Renovation and expansion of Warrenton to accommodate 800 students. It would include a second vehicle access — through the county garage near the firehouse off West Shirley Avenue or on Waterloo Street. Another Waterloo access probably would require demolition of a 1981 addition to the school or acquisition of adjacent property.

• A new, 800-student school on the Taylor campus along East Shirley Avenue.

> Document at bottom of story

This year, Taylor has 481 students and Warrenton has 438.

Due in July, the architects’ study will include cost estimates, timelines and conceptual drawings for both options.

“A lot of this is reactive to questions from the board of supervisors and wanting us to look at additional options,” school board Chairman Brian Gorg (Center District) said.

“We’re exploring all options. We’re doing the collaborative work that needs to be done to work with the board of supervisors,” Mr. Gorg said. “I don’t think we are on opposing teams. I think we are part of the same team, and this is the work that needs to be done.”

For years, education officials have wrestled with options for Warrenton’s two aging middle schools. It considered a range of options, including renovation or replacement of both. Building two new schools would cost an estimated $98 million.

The 2016 committee — which included Supervisors Chris Granger (Center District) and Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall) and school board members Mr. Gorg and Donna Grove (Cedar Run) — studied the options for four months.

The group started with concepts that included renovating or constructing new schools at Taylor and Warrenton, built in 1951 and 1936, respectively.

In October, the committee, under direction of school officials and architects, focused on consolidation because leaders deemed renovation too costly. That decision resulted from a daylong meeting of the “Options Committee” of architects, school officials and three citizens.

The full Middle School Modernization Committee on Dec. 7 endorsed the $55-million plan for a new, consolidated school.

But, in the months that followed, the board of supervisors rejected that plan, as well as a quickly-drafted $43.3-million alternative for a slightly smaller consolidated middle school on the Taylor site.

The first indication of opposition came in January, when Supervisor Granger expressed concern about increased traffic on East Shirley Avenue and long bus rides for students as major issues for the consolidated plan at Taylor. He suggested the plan failed to mesh with residential development patterns in Fauquier.

“I’m happy they’re willing to look at this (renovation) option, because if they get a tighter plan that we can get three votes on, we can get this moving immediately, which is everyone’s goal,” Mr. Granger said of school officials’ reconsideration. “I want to get at least three people on each (five-member) board to agree to a plan and start moving.”

The county has a $33-million “placeholder” for the middle school project in the five-year capital improvements plan.

Fauquier County Middle School 800 Student Proposal by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Rover 530 · May 17, 2017 at 10:28 pm
Fauquier needs to demolish Taylor and build a new one of whatever size and close Warrenton. Better traffic solution and preservation of the African-American heritage in the naming of the school. Warrenton MS can be repurposed for Post Office use and as an alternative to a new, unnecessarily expensive county library. Plenty of parking and access to both.
Rose Burns McDade · May 17, 2017 at 2:33 am
As a former middle and high school teacher I was glad to hear that the idea of renovatingredients the Warrenton middle schools is back on the table. I have studied how mega schools effect students and found that students with special needs (not necessarily special education) can be lost. I wish that we would look for solutions to our problems that work the best not which cost the least.
Rose Burns McDade
BJ · May 16, 2017 at 1:52 pm
Update and move the library or Post Office to the Warrenton Middle building, and expand Taylor. Logistically Taylor is better suited for the traffic and expansion.
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