School redistricting talks to start Tuesday

The Williamsburg-James City County School Board is set to start discussing how to shake up the division's attendance districts Tuesday night.

With James Blair Middle School opening fall 2018, the School Board is tasked with figuring out how to redesign attendance zones to fill the new school, and take the capacity pressure off of existing ones.

At their first April meeting, the board will discuss whether to change only the middle school level, or take the opportunity to shake up elementary and high school zones as well. They'll also determine a timeline for the process and whether to hire an outside firm for the work. The board wants to finish discussions by February 2018.

"This is just the initial step so I think we need to get a sense of the cost, because we can't do this totally in-house, so I'd like to determine if we can save some money if we just do middle school redistricting," board member Lisa Ownby (JCC Powhatan) said.

This will be the third redistricting by the board in just over a decade. In 2006 elementary and high schools were rezoned to make way for Warhill's and Matoaka's opening. The elementary level was redone again in 2010 for J. Blaine Blayton as were the middle schools to make way for Hornsby.

In 2006, the division put a community committee in charge of redrawing lines. Four years later, the division spent $49,000 for a Montana-based consulting firm to draw the maps ahead of 2011 school openings.

Transportation is a large discussion item because buses are shared among the schools. Bus schedules and school start times are on the same three-tier system.

High school buses run at 7:20 a.m. and 2:20 p.m., coinciding with the beginning and end of the school day. Middle school buses run at 8:05 a.m. and 3:05 p.m. and elementary school buses run at 9:20 a.m. and 3:50 p.m.

That three-tier system or the start times could change with redistricting. During the 2010 reorganization, the board explored swapping the high school and elementary school start times. They ultimately decided not to change them.

Also on the agenda, the board will vote on when to spend $337,000 to refresh student lab desktops and laptops and teacher laptops across the three middle schools. The purchase was approved in the fiscal year 2017 budget, but the board must approve anything eclipsing $100,000.

Four capital improvement projects included in the fiscal year 2017 plan are coming before the board Tuesday: replacing the roof and the HVAC system at Norge Elementary School, replacing the roof at Lafayette High School and revamping HVAC energy controls at buildings across the division.

At Norge, $3.66 million was budgeted for the HVAC replacement and $610,000 for the roof replacement. Invitations for bids for the Norge HVAC and roof replacement have been issued and a request for proposal has gone out for the Lafayette roof.

Only part of the Lafayette roof replacement funding is secured. The board budgeted for $507,700 in 2017 budget approved by the School Board, James City County Board of Supervisors and Williamsburg City Council.

Due to structural damage underneath the existing roof, the School Board asked for an additional $2.7 million funding in 2018 in the 2018-2027 capital improvement plan they approved Dec. 13. The 2018-2027 plan is being reviewed by the county and city, which will include the funding — or not — in their budgets approved later this spring.

The School Board will discuss the capital projects before voting to award contracts at their April 18 meeting.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

Want to go?

6:30 p.m. April 11 in room 300 at the School Board and Central Office Annex at 117 Ironbound Road

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette