Members of the James City County Board of Supervisors and Williamsburg City Council both expressed reservations about W-JCC School Board’s request to build a new elementary school at a joint meeting on Dec. 6.
The three groups met to discuss Williamsburg-James City County school division’s proposed 2020-2029 Capital Improvement Plan, the biggest item of which is building a 10th elementary school.
Construction of a new elementary school would cost an estimated $38.5 million; buying land, if necessary, would be an additional expense.
Superintendent Olwen Herron recommended building a new elementary school in her proposed CIP due to projected enrollment growth: elementary school enrollment is expected to be 5,507 students in 2028. Elementary school capacity is 5,470 students, so the schools would be over capacity by 37 students.
When asked by Doug Pons, vice mayor, how accurate the projections were, Monique Barnes, W-JCC’s chief financial officer, said the low-enrollment projection had historically been within 1 percent of actual enrollment.
W-JCC gets enrollment projections from FutureThink, a company that creates such projections for more than 1,000 school districts. The company provided the district with low, moderate and high enrollment projections for the next 10 years.
However, even with a growing district, the representatives of the localities did not think building a new elementary school was necessary.
Michael Hipple, Powhatan, suggested it would cost less in the long term to expand current elementary schools than to build a new one. In addition to construction costs, Hipple said building a new school will require hiring all new staff, yearly maintenance of another building, and more.
Jim Icenhour, Jamestown, added while growth in the area had been steady, it was not explosive. He said he wanted W-JCC to explore more options before settling on building a new school.
Sue Sadler, Stonehouse, wondered whether redistricting was an option to help ease elementary school overcrowding. Kyra Cook, Williamsburg, said the board had discussed redistricting but decided not to because members did not think it would solve short term — let alone future — space problems.
The next regular School Board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 11 at the School Board and Central Office Annex, 117 Ironbound Road, room 300.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.