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New Kent School Board considers additions to elementary schools

Plan would eliminated need to renovate historic high school for upper elementary

By Amy Jo Martin, amartin@tidewaterreview.com

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NEW KENT – The New Kent County School Board is considering adding wings to the two existing elementary schools instead of building a new upper level elementary school.

One draft of the FY14-19 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) includes $5.52 million in FY14-15 for the construction of one wing at each elementary school, which would eliminate the need for the historic high school renovations. School Finance Director Ralph Westbay presented the draft to the School Board Monday night.

"The School Board is reviewing the project and their decision will be based on a number of factors, including feasibility and how it impacts the core facilities," Westbay said in a phone interview Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors voted last month to approve the $5.9 million phase 2 of the historic high school renovation project, which would convert the building into an upper level elementary school serving grades 3-5.

However, Westbay told the School Board that funding "can be maximized to even greater purpose than the complete renovation of the historic school at this time" with the construction of wings to the existing elementary schools.

"Two wing additions will provide critically needed space and reduce the operating budget impact by over $665,000 per year, or over $3.3 million over the five-year CIP period," he said.

According to Westbay, the cost savings of eliminating staff at the third upper level elementary school would "more than pay for one of the wings over the five-year period."

"The historic school renovation could be reverted to the original purpose of housing the School Board office, which offers multiple benefits in alleviating the need for future tax dollars to build a new structure, and returns the historic courthouse building to its intended function," Westbay added.

Westbay said that school staff is preparing information about the possible wings and its "core facility impact" for the School Board's Dec. 2 meeting.

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.