The Williamsburg-James City County School Board is poised to approve Superintendent Olwen Herron’s 2020-2029 Capital Improvement Plan at its Tuesday work session.
The biggest item in the plan is building a new elementary school for $38.5 million; buying land, if necessary, would be an additional expense.
Herron recommended building a new elementary school because of projected enrollment growth: elementary school enrollment is expected to be 5,507 students in 2028. Elementary school capacity is 5,470 students, so schools would be 37 students over capacity.
The School Board discussed the capital plan with the James City County Board of Supervisors and Williamsburg City Council at a joint meeting on Dec. 6. City and county representatives both expressed reservations about building a new school.
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.
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.
Jim Icenhour, Jamestown, said 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.
The School Board will vote on the same plan Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean every item will be funded.
“(The School Board) makes a request and then (the localities) have to respond to that request,” said Kyra Cook, Williamsburg. “They may or may not fund our request, but that’s not abnormal. Sometimes we make a request several times before it gets funded, sometimes we make requests that never get funded and sometimes they push things up and fund them faster than we are asking for.”
Other items on the proposed CIP include:
- Expand Warhill, Jamestown and Lafayette High Schools
- Demolish the well at Berkeley Middle School
- HVAC replacements at four schools
In addition to discussing the spending plan with leaders from localities, the School Board held two public hearings. No one spoke at the first, and only one person spoke at the board’s public hearing for the proposed CIP on Nov.2 7: Jay Everson, who opposed building a new elementary school.
Everson said with 37 students over capacity, building a new elementary school for $38.5 million would work out to cost more than a $1 million per student.
Later that night, Lisa Ownby, Powhatan, said York County School Division has about the same number of students and three more schools than W-JCC, so she doesn’t think building another school is unrealistic.
What else will be discussed?
While CIP is the biggest item on the agenda, the board will also be presented with the Portrait of a Graduate for the Class of 2018. This shows the accomplishments of graduates district-wide and per school.
The profile includes: seniors’ SAT scores and AP pass rates, how many students graduated on time, late or dropped out, the number of scholarships and awards earned by the class and the demographic composition of the group.
Previous reports can be viewed at wjccschools.org/about-wjcc/achievements/graduation-and-reports.
Want to attend?
The work session will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the School Board and Central Office Annex in room 300 on 117 Ironbound Road.
Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.