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February 28, 2019

Boards near a compromise on middle school project

File Photo/Don Del Rosso
Fauquier County in 1951 built William C. Taylor as the high school for black students during segregation.
If we decide that Warrenton Middle School is indeed the best solution, then I want to know what we are going to do with Taylor. I want to make sure it continues as an educational institution and make sure that the area is dedicated to the history and legacy of William C. Taylor and its alumni. I want assurances.
— School board member Duke Bland
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 2-1/2 years of debate and frustration, Fauquier’s school board Wednesday night tentatively agreed to compromise with the county supervisors on a plan to renovate and reconfigure middle schools.

By the end of the sometimes contentious 90-minute work session, all five school board members accepted the general concept that Supervisor Chris Granger (Center District) unveiled two weeks ago.

It calls for a 200-student expansion of Cedar Lee Middle School in Bealeton, along with renovation and expansion of one of the two schools in the county seat, Taylor or Warrenton. The other school would get repurposed.

That would leave Fauquier with four middle schools rather than five.

Supervisors Granger and Chris Butler (Lee) hammered out the concept in four private meetings with school board members Donna Grove (Cedar Run) and Brian Gorg (Center).

The school board repeatedly had proposed construction of a new building to consolidate Taylor and Warrenton. But, the supervisors, who control funding, balked at the estimated cost, as high as $55 million.

“I’m facing the facts,” Ms. Grove told her board Wednesday. “They are not going to agree to fund a new build.”

The proposal would involve redrawing attendance zones, which also would send more students to Auburn Middle School near New Baltimore.

But, redistricting wouldn’t take place for another three to four years, according to Superintendent David Jeck.

Mr. Granger earlier this month suggested expanding and renovating Warrenton Middle School.

But, the school board has not agreed to that.

“They provide the funds, (but) they should not be in a position to dictate to us whether we renovate, build new or whatever it may be,” school board member Duke Bland (Marshall) said loudly as Wednesday night’s discussion began. “If the funds are there, tell us how much we can spend and let us make the decision on what’s best.”

We “have come up with what we believe is a plan that will address the need of the students, and at no time has it been dictated to us,” Ms. Grove said of the discussions over the last four months. “That’s been the goal the whole time. What can we agree on that will do the most good, solve the most problems?”

Over the last two years, the school board had remained steadfast in its preference for a new, consolidated school in Warrenton.

“The reality is, that money won’t come to us with the plan we’ve put forward,” Mr. Gorg said.

The new proposal would benefit “the entire county, not just one district,” he added.

“This is a concept we believe will be supported by both boards,” Ms. Grove said. “It’s certainly not final. It’s a starting point.”

Mr. Bland agreed with the expansion of Cedar Lee, redistricting and the consolidation in Warrenton.

But, he added: “I just need to be convinced that the renovation of Warrenton Middle School is the best solution.”

Suggesting Southern Fauquier often gets neglected, Don Mason (Lee) said the school board also must consider the situation at Remington’s Margaret M. Pierce Elementary, operating a 101 percent of its capacity. But, Mr. Mason eventually agreed to the proposed middle school compromise.

Mr. Bland also stressed the need to preserve the historical significance of William C. Taylor Middle. Built as a high school for black students during segregation, the school opened in 1951. County schools integrated 18 years later.

“If we decide that Warrenton Middle School is indeed the best solution, then I want to know what we are going to do with Taylor,” Mr. Bland said. “I want to make sure it continues as an educational institution and make sure that the area is dedicated to the history and legacy of William C. Taylor and its alumni. I want assurances.”

A group of about 10 Taylor High School alumni attended Wednesday’s meeting.

To help fund the proposed project, the county could consider selling the five-acre Warrenton Community Center property (formerly Central Elementary). The school system could also sell Southeastern Alternative School near Calverton.

But, until architects examine the buildings, the project costs remain uncertain.

Dr. Jeck and his staff will work with county officials to develop a plan that involves an expansion of Cedar Lee, the consolidation of one middle school in Warrenton and the sale of Southeastern and the Warrenton Community Center.

Eventually, the school system will move forward with the bidding process to see how much it would cost to expand Cedar Lee — the proposed first phase of the project.

The school board plans to hold a joint meeting on the proposal with the county supervisors in March.

Fauquier has 2,553 middle school students (Grades 6-8) in five buildings:

• Auburn, 554

• Cedar Lee, 636

• Marshall, 488

• Taylor, 464

• Warrenton, 412

School administrators project a modest enrollment increase over the next decade.

Contact Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-878-6007.
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Mark House · March 7, 2019 at 8:52 am
SaveFC2019- How many of the children that have attended Taylor MS built in 1951 developed asthma and other chronic illnesses? Until you can come up with some numbers, you are just guessing.
Savefauquiercounty2019 · March 6, 2019 at 2:10 pm
Healthy building, less chronic illnesses such as asthma. Families need to be told if they live in Warrenton district their kids may have to attend 1951 year old building.
Cammie Rodgers · March 1, 2019 at 10:05 am
".... last year (2017) the General Assembly passed a bill that changed everything. Rather than accept proffers that addressed overall community needs, the proffers only have to offset the specific unit-by-unit impact of a development. That makes it hard to fit in something like a county-wide amenity such as an aquatic center or a park. For instance, in days past a developer might have proffered a site for an 800 pupil school. Under the new law, that proffer might be out of bounds if his development would only produce 400 students.

“The new law shifts the entire process and focus of how localities address development and its impact on communities.”

Everything is different now. If the county wants to negotiate a proffer, they will find it much harder to use a suggested cash offset that’s uniform across the county. Rather, they have to define the specific impact of the project. It requires a lot more analysis. Also, it has the effect of reducing what developers have to pay. That’s not explicit, but by limiting the scope of proffers and how they’re calculated, that’s the impact.

The development community argued that proffers under the old law were unfair and distributed the costs unevenly. And besides, or so went the argument, the costs of the proffers inevitably ended up being borne by the new residents through higher housing costs.

However, so much of the cost of development is in the hard-to-quantify category. That’s why more creative proffers seemed to offer at least a partial solution to meeting some of the broader community needs brought about by development.

Now, it’s a much tighter ship. The developers, at least based on how the law reads, won’t necessarily have to come to the table ready to bargain like they used to. There is a specific limit on the size of the proffers and, inherently, a limit on the form they can take.

It’s a better deal if you’re a developer, but maybe not so much if you’re a taxpayer. Because if we want those broader amenities and infrastructure, then that’s who is going to pay for them."

David Kerr, a former member of the Stafford County School Board, is an instructor in political science at VCU and can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Truepat · March 1, 2019 at 9:21 am
Don't ignore the facts as to why there is this problem with the schools, it's because of the Supervisors approving more and more home developments with no regard to the burden it puts on all our services including education. This problem will continue as long as the supervisors believe they can use the Fauquier property owners as a savings account (tax)to bail out there shortsightedness. Bring in business to help with the tax burden.......
Mark House · March 1, 2019 at 8:17 am
BestKeptSecrets - I agree. The Warrenton MS is even older then Taylor and they have known that there is asbestos in that building for years.
BestKeptSecrets · March 1, 2019 at 6:16 am
Whatever our leaders do, there should be no compromise when it comes to the health of our students, parents, teachers, professionals. They need to let the entire county know if the 1951 building has environmental dangers. We don't want anyone to be exposed to carcinogens, and/or any bronchial contaminants. We all know back in those days how buildings were constructed.
Mark House · February 28, 2019 at 7:17 pm
The area around Taylor MS has more room for expansion and parking, while the Warrenton MS is in the middle of town. Warrenton MS would make a better office building for the county government (since they decided against the old BBT bank due to cost) or for a move for the Public Library.
AngryBob · February 28, 2019 at 4:24 pm
So Bealeton gets a renovation. Warrenton gets a renovation. New Baltimore gets.... more students.

This doesn't sound like much of a compromise to me. Sounds like north side just got the shaft. Well, maybe I'll get lucky and my kids will have a teacher in their overcrowded middle school classrooms. Since there seems to be a problem getting that done in their elementary school.
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