The Planning Commission voted to consider the construction an auxiliary gym at Lafayette High School a higher priority in its capital improvement plan Monday night.
The move makes the project the top priority from the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools in the four year spending plan.
The 7-0 vote happened after a large ensemble of students, parents and educators from the school showed up to argue for equity in spending.
The auxiliary gym, which Lafayette parents said is badly needed, now ranks fifth in the capital improvement plan recommended to the Board of Supervisors, which then approves the final program.
While moving it up the list does not guarantee funding, it improves the chances of the project receiving funding from the county.
Lafayette parents have advocated for improvement of the walkway between the school and Warhill Sports Complex, as well as an auxiliary gym, but both projects ranked last in the capital improvement plan discussed by the Planning Commission's policy committee.
"Overall, the current situation at Lafayette High School creates disadvantages for our students," said Lisa Lucas, president of the PTSA at the school. "It impacts their ability to do their best," she said.
More than 80 members of the school community showed up for the meeting at the James City County Government Center, many wearing Lafayette Rams sweatshirts.
"It goes without saying the facilities are inadequate when compared to the other schools," said Danny Schmidt, the newest member of the Planning Commission, after public comment on the hearing finished. "It's a wonder your high school produced the best NFL defender in history, Lawrence Taylor, with that little field out there," he said, garnering laughter from the audience.
"It's obvious Lafayette's facilities are not on par with the others," committee member Rich Krapf said.
"One of the tricky things of the position we're in on the Planning Commission, the capital ranking priorities from the school division came from the school administration, that's what their strategic planners determined were priorities for the upcoming year," he said.
Most members of the Planning Commission said they felt the walkway was a lower priority because there were alternatives, including a school bus, available. But they said an auxiliary gym should have ranked higher on the list.
Bledsoe proposed moving the auxiliary gym to fifth on the list, behind other projects involving stormwater management and improvements at James City County Marina. The measure passed unanimously shortly after.
"We're thrilled by the way the commission responded so thoughtfully to the information presented," Kathy Woollum, president of Lafayette Boosters said afterward. "They had a complete dialogue on the whole matter and they provided the attention it deserved."
At Monday night's meeting, the Planning Commission voted on officers for the next year. Tim O'Connor was selected as chairman, and John Wright was selected as vice chair. The Capital Improvement Plan rankings now move on to consideration from the county's Board of Supervisors.
Bogues can be reached by phone at 757-345-2346.
Capital Improvement Plan Rankings by Planning Commission
1. Stormwater neighborhood drainage
2. Transportation match
3. Jamestown Beach Event Park improvements
4. James City County Marina
5. Lafayette High School auxiliary gym ¿ (up from the 14th position)
6. Jamestown High School entrance redesign
7. Norge Elementary School entrance redesign
7. D.J. Montague Elementary School entrance redesign
9 Berkeley Middle School entrance redesign
9. Lafayette High School entrance redesign
11 Toano Middle School entrance redesign
11 Stonehouse Elementary School entrance redesign
13. Stonehouse Elementary School bus canopy
14. Chickahominy Riverfront Park splash pad
15. Lafayette High School walkway