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February 14, 2019

$40-million middle school plan results from talks

File Photo/Cassandra Brown
Warrenton Middle School would undergo $30 million worth of expansion and renovation, according to the proposal. An estimated $10 million would fund expansion of Cedar Lee Middle School in Bealeton.
I’m positive, because we’ve been working on something behind the scenes for both boards for awhile.
— School board member Brian Gorg
Two Aging Schools
> Taylor Middle

• Where: 350 E. Shirley Ave.

• Built: 1951, with addition in 1981.

• Enrollment: 443

• 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: 417

• Capacity: 545

• Building: 94,000 square feet.

• Acres: 18

• Parking spaces: 103
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
After four months of behind-the-scenes talks, county supervisors and school board members have a tentative plan to address Warrenton’s two aging middle schools.

School board members Brian Gorg (Center District), Donna Grove (Cedar Run) along with supervisors Chris Granger (Center) and Chris Butler (Lee) hammered out a plan.

Mr. Granger on Thursday afternoon introduced the $40-million proposal that would include:

• A $30-million renovation and expansion of Warrenton Middle School to accommodate up to 650 students.

• A possible $10 million renovation and expansion of Cedar Lee Middle School, increasing its capacity by 150 students.

• Redrawing attendance districts, which would send more students to Auburn Middle School.

• The sale of the five-acre Warrenton Community Center property (formerly Central Elementary) to help fund the project. For tax purposes, the county values land property and the buildings — adjacent to Walmart — at $6.9 million.

• Renovating Taylor Middle School and moving Head Start, the Warrenton senior center and offices from the community center. Southeastern Alternative School also might move to Taylor.

The plan could result in about 200 fewer students attending middle school — Grades 6, 7 and 8 — in the Town of Warrenton.

This year, Taylor Middle has 463 students and Warrenton has 412. Countywide, the five middle schools have 2,553 students.

All of it remains subject to both boards’ approval, however.

“It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a good solution,” Supervisor Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall) said Thursday. “I think I would support it.”

It appears that at least three supervisors favor the plan.

Mr. Gorg also backs the $40-million plan and believes at least two other school board members do as well.

“I’m positive, because we’ve been working on something behind the scenes for both boards for awhile,” he said. “I didn’t expect that (conversation) today, but it helps us move our dialogue forward.”

In September 2017, the supervisors proposed a similar plan, without the Cedar Lee expansion.

But, school board members reacted angrily to what they deemed an overreach by the supervisors.

> Documents at bottom of story

This time, Mr. Gorg said things seem different.

He called the option to expand Cedar Lee the “lynchpin” of the new plan.

For the last 2-1/2 years, his board has focused on building a new, consolidated middle school in Warrenton.

“The biggest thing is, are we OK with renovating and focusing our efforts on Cedar Lee and moving away from a new build?” he said.

Previous plans failed to “do anything about expanding capacity in the southern end, which is where we are seeing growth,” Mr. Gorg said.

If both boards agree on the plan, the Cedar Lee expansion probably would come before the work at Warrenton.

Under that scenario, the renovated and expanded Warrenton Middle would get a second entrance/exit through the county garage site to East Shirley Avenue at the firehouse. Buses and staff members would use that access to the campus, while parents’ vehicles would continue to come and go via Waterloo Street.

Offices in trailers around the county garage could move into Taylor.

The plan would also include phased middle school redistricting, possibly cutting school busing costs.

The supervisors already have $3 million in cash and $30 million in capital improvement plan funding set aside for the middle school project. But, the boards have yet to agree how to spend that.

The school board and supervisors could discuss the project in a joint meeting during budget deliberations next month.

The supervisors still want to consider the project’s potential effect on the county debt limit.

The school board in the fall of 2016 appointed a 40-member committee to evaluate Warrenton Middle and Taylor and make recommendations.

That December, the group recommended building a new, consolidated middle school for up to 1,000 students. The school board proposed its construction on the Taylor campus along East Shirley Avenue.

But, the projected $55.3-million cost drew immediate opposition from the board of supervisors, which controls local funding.

The school board came back with a scaled-down plan that would have cost an estimated $43 million. Again, the supervisors balked.

The two boards conducted a series of sometimes-contentious joint meetings that failed to produce consensus. Then, the supervisors offered their plan by letter in September 2017. After the school board rejected it, talks essentially stalled until the ad hoc group started meeting late last year.

Those meetings remained secret until Thursday afternoon when Mr. Granger disclosed the outlines of a plan during a board of supervisors’ work session.

He and Mr. Gorg said the plan would result in less bussing for students, hundreds of whom would attend middle schools closer to their homes.

Mr. Granger said he hopes the two boards can agree on the basic plan within a month. If the boards reach consensus, it remains unknown when construction might start.

Although school officials have devoted extensive time and effort to studying Taylor and Warrenton, they have far less information about what the Cedar Lee project would require, Mr. Gorg said.

Supervisors Holder Trumbo (Scott) said after the meeting that he wants more information.

“I’m trying to take a step back and see if it makes sense,” Mr. Trumbo said. “What are we really talking about? The concept, as far as moving students closer to their homes, makes sense.

“But, what do we get for that money? I don’t know yet.”

Contact Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-878-6007.

BOS to School Bd 9 14 17 by on Scribd

School board letter to supe... by on Scribd

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Savefauquiercounty2019 · February 20, 2019 at 5:15 am
I can understand being gun shy because the mistake made 10 years ago was costly. Our teachers will no longer donate their salaries.
I suggest the powers to be ask themselves...
What and how will our decision save 10 years from now? 1934 and 1951 buildings have asbestos and sick building issues! Demolish them. Teachers have been getting sick. Is it worth paying sick leave, health care costs for exacerbation of respiratory issues, cancers,chem or radiation. Don't continue to expose our children to these outdated buildings. Look to the future. New buildings will end up saving. Get a loan. Start a new. There are so many wealthy people in Fauquier county. Start ask for help.
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