Editorial: Residents, speak up at Feb. 19 historic high school proposal public hearing

11:30 AM EST, February 6, 2014


The public will have an opportunity to speak this month on the historic high school project proposal. Be sure to attend.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a special public hearing at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19 on the unsolicited (Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002) proposal from Marengo Management.

The project includes the renovation of the 20,000-square-foot 1930 school building on New Kent Highway for use as an elementary school in fall 2015.

The New Kent School Board met with supervisors on Jan. 31 and urged the county to turn the historic high school into an elementary school for grades K-5 rather than the earlier proposed upper level elementary for grades 3-5.

School Board members and school Superintendent Robert "Rick" Richardson Jr. also expressed their concern at having not been privy to Marengo's proposed designs.

According to County Attorney Michele Gowdy, only the "proprietary jurisdiction," or the county government, has the right to look at the proposal details.

This has left the School Board with a lot of questions.

"From what we can tell, and we haven't seen the designs, there is an absence of a connecting wing between the two (historic high school) buildings. This means there is no single point of entry, which raises a school safety concern," said Richardson, who added that the plans should also include elevators and parking/playground space.

"What it sounds like to me ... and I hope this is inaccurate ... that we don't have any say in what the final product looks like," he added.

Gowdy told the two boards that more detailed plans and negotiations will be discussed with the applicant, and reminded them that the project will not be binding until they sign the contract.

According to Marengo's proposal, the project does not include furnishings and "hardscaping or landscaping outside of the historic courtyard."

The proposal also discusses Marengo's qualifications and experience, and a description of the project, which includes:

•new HVAC systems;

•restoration to the historical stage;

•upgrading of electrical wiring;

•increasing drainage capacity on the grounds;

•adding 10 security cameras;

•updating handicap ramp and entrance;

•designing and installing wet sprinklers;

•reducing any visible vinyl asbestos floor tiles;

•construction of classrooms;

•updating exterior entrance doors;

• and new suspended ceilings.

The Board of Supervisors could take action on Marengo's proposal on Feb. 19, however, they cannot enter into an agreement until 30 days later.

The Board of Supervisors should be encouraged to listen to the School Board's concerns and be forthcoming with project information.

School officials have presented a strong argument as to why the historic building should serve grades K-5. Reasons include overcrowding, student safety and program consistency. These need to be taken into account.

What do you think?

Voice your opinions on Feb. 19.

A copy of the proposal is available in the New Kent County Administration Office.