School Board approves capital spending plan

Williamsburg-James City Scounty School Board members voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the proposed 2018-27 Capital Improvement Plan.

The board has been discussing the nearly 10-year, $100 million spending plan for months, adjusting the document as they see fit. Now it will be sent to the Williamsburg City Council and James City County Board of Supervisors for final approval.

The spending plan allots $5.9 million in the upcoming fiscal year. In 2022, the plan's spending peaks, as the board believes WJCC Schools may need to spend $21 million to expand high schools, among other projects.

In practice, boards follow the first year of each year's capital plan. The remaining years are seen as a spending guide and are non-binding.

Before voting, Lisa Ownby (JCC-Powhatan) said she was concerned about a project to install lights at Lafayette High School's practice field. The line item was taken out of the CIP earlier this fall. Interim superintendent Olwen Herron said the lights will be in place by the end of the school year.

Herron said at an October meeting that she took the permanent lights out of the plan so they could address the issue sooner, as opposed to years out in the CIP. The division is funding the lights from the current fiscal year's operating budget.

"We are in the process of getting quotes from vendors," spokeswoman Betsy Overkamp-Smith said on Dec. 7. "Once those are received, we'll move forward to purchase."

Ownby also asked about the walkway between Lafayette and the Warhill Sports Complex that was removed from Herron's CIP recommendation. Julie Hummel (Williamsburg) echoed Ownby's concern that the two projects may fall through the cracks.

"I just want to go on the record saying that we are going to do right by them," Hummel said.

The capital plan includes routine maintenance items like replacing roofs and HVAC systems, but also calls for an expansion of the high schools and eventually, in 2026, a new elementary school.

In fiscal year 2018, the plan includes entrance redesigns for DJ Montague and Norge elementary schools, a $2.6 million roof replacement for Lafayette High School, and $1.3 million in masonry repairs at Clara Byrd Baker Elementary.

On Tuesday, the board also heard an update on Lafayette's new auxiliary gym, which is still being designed by HBA Architecture Interior Design.

HBA representative Jack Hasten presented suggested changes to an original design given to the board in October. The update incorporates a value engineering evaluation to identify areas the division could save money on the project.

One possible change was to the lighting source inside the gym. Currently the design calls for LED lights, Hasten said.

"LED is currently what's specified and we really think that that's the best choice," Hasten said. "but if it's required for funding, related to the bid, there is a savings of about $20,000 to go to fluorescent versus LED."

He said the fluorescent lights would be included in the bid as an alternate depending on funding. The division's director of operations, Marcellus Snipes, said a final design would be available for approval in January.

Renee Dino gave the second Equity Through Engagement presentations, started by interim Superintendent Olwen Herron at the board's last work session Nov. 1. She spoke of the Bright Beginnings program, a preschool initiative the division has participated in for nearly 40 years, including outcome data of students who go through it.

"This is one of the best examples of investing dollars early on, kids that go through Bright Beginnings are kindergarten ready," board member Lisa Ownby said. "It does a great job preparing our kids."

The board spent a while on a discussion of school start times and the pros and cons of changing it before deciding it would be better discussed after hiring a new superintendent. The board members ultimately decided to revisit the topic in April.

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

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