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WJCC Schools public hearing draws one speaker

Williamsburg-James City County School Board members want to see more emphasis on athletic facilities in the district’s next capital improvement plan.

Their discussion came during a Nov. 17 board meeting and was the first public dialogue among board members about the proposed plan. Schools, just like county and city governments, annually prioritize large-scale projects and place them into a capital improvement plan.

The division's plan is part of a larger program with both Williamsburg and James City County governments, whose tax revenue fund the district. The plan includes projects the district plans to work on, when they'll be complete as well as how much they cost.

During a Nov. 17 public hearing on the proposed capital plan, Lafayette High School Booster Club member Cathy Woolum requested school board members add enhancements to high school sports programs to the plan for fiscal years 2017 to 2026.

She told board members practice fields used by Lafayette student athletes are not lighted, and the football team needs an auxiliary gym for practice. The gym was once in the capital plan, but has since been removed, she said.

Three board members also questioned why the capital plan didn’t include improvements for district athletic facilities.   

School Superintendent Steve Constantino and his staff prepared the capital plan after a firm studied the district's 15 schools – including the condition of the walls and paint, carpeting and floors, heating and air conditioning equipment as well as the interiors and exteriors -- to determine what improvements each school will need over the next decade.

Berkeley representative, Ruth Larson asked Constantino why the plan didn’t include future plans to add an aquatic facility for swimming, which is a big sport in this area, she said. Her daughter, a W-JCC student, is a swimmer.

“Folks have to travel to Hampton University, who has graciously allowed us to use their facilities for meets,” Larson said. “If Hampton decides they’re no longer going to maintain the pool, what then?”

Powhatan representative Joe Fuentes also questioned why similar projects, like schools needing new playgrounds, weren’t grouped together as one project on the capital plan.

Schools Chief Financial Officer Christina Berta said the plan historically listed projects by school and not as a group, which is how city and county officials preferred them.

Constantino also told board members the capital plan can be revised and reminded them that it focused on pressing needs of the district.

“I think we all recognize that it’s going to take a number of years to climb out of the cuts of the recession. Everything didn’t get done,” Constantino said. “It’s going to take a long time to get everything on (the capital improvement plan).”

Williamsburg board member Kyra Cook suggested the board add items, but said it needed to be done after further studies and with context to justify the improvements.

Once the school district approves the plan for improvements in its schools for the next decade, it will go to the localities for review. Williamsburg and James City County officials may make changes, additions or take things out of the plan before signing off on it.

The localities have until May to make decisions on the W-JCC capital improvement plan.

Currently, the school district is working under a capital improvement plan implemented in 2012, which included the refurbishment of the second floor at Jamestown High School and the enhancements at Berkeley Middle School scheduled for this summer.

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