School board looks at enrollment projections that support the proposed 2020-2029 CIP

aheymann@vagazette.com

The Williamsburg-James City County School Board recently discussed how projected enrollment worked into Superintendent Olwen Herron’s proposed 2020-2029 Capital Improvement Plan, which includes building a new elementary school.

The proposed plan was presented at a W-JCC School Board work session on Oct. 2. Using a low projection for elementary school enrollment growth shows the division will be above capacity by 36 students by 2026; that is expected to grow to 82 students over capacity by 2027.

At the October meeting, Monique Barnes, the division’s chief financial officer, said another option would be to expand existing elementary schools, but she cautioned that it would be a temporary solution.

Construction of a new elementary school would cost an estimated $38.5 million; buying land, if necessary, would be an additional expense. The recommendation to build the school has not yet been discussed by the School Board.

Before the meeting, the board held a public hearing on the proposed capital plan. The only community member to speak was Jay Everson, who said the district’s projected enrollment had declined during the past five years.

For example, Future Think, the company that calculates W-JCC’s enrollment projections, estimated in 2010 the low enrollment projection for elementary schools in 2017-18 would be 5,178 students. In 2016 they changed that projected enrollment number to 4,894 students. The actual elementary school enrollment in 2017-18 was 5,024 students.

Everson said the projected elementary school enrollment calculated by Future Think for 2028-29 would have 5,507 students. As total elementary school capacity is 5,470 students, the schools would be over capacity by 37 students.

Everson said building a new elementary school for $38.5 million would work out to cost more than a $1 million per student.

Board members addressed Everson’s concerns during the regular meeting when discussing Herron’s proposal.

Kyra Cook, Williamsburg, asked how the district gets its enrollment projections. Barnes said the district continues to use Future Think to develop that information, and she said the projections have been within a 1 percent accuracy margin so far.

Cook said she supports the proposed CIP as it was presented. She said the elementary level is already using a trailer and is looking into getting another.

Lisa Ownby, Powhatan, added that 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’s next?

The School Board will hold a joint meeting with the James City County Board of Supervisors and the Williamsburg City Council at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 6 in room 127 at the Stryker Center, 412 N. Boundary St.. They will discuss the W-JCC’s funding.

The next regular 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.

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