Slow down on adding on to the high schools

Williamsburg-James City County Schools are again talking about needing another new high school or adding trailers to the three high schools for additional capacity. It seems like the administration and School Board did not learn any lessons from the Blair Middle School process, and that some basic facts are forgotten.

How do we know the high schools are over capacity? Because the schools say so. Before we head down this path of adding additional costs to the city and county budgets, we should all pause (this includes the School Board) and ask a few questions, and especially validate the district’s answers.

How do the schools calculate capacity? Does the public, city, JCC and School Board know how they calculate capacity? Have the detailed calculations ever been presented to the public, funding partners or School Board? Has an outside group validated these calculations? How much are the classrooms utilized and are they utilized for teaching or some other purpose? Has the district ever disclosed their classroom utilization reports to the public? See some answers below.

As the public, city and JCC gets answers to these significant and basic questions, let’s also remember some things about W-JCC schools and the School Boards’ past promises. Whatever happened to the studies on high school start times? High school block scheduling? Vocational education? Nothing.

The funders need to be very careful on trusting answers from the schools.

Remember what happened when Dave Jarman’s citizens budget advisory group looked at space usage a few years ago? They found numerous classrooms used for other purposes, such as storage, and that teachers used classrooms for their preparation time (one period per day) instead of some other space. Their report was trashed by the schools, as it did not fit their propaganda.

So, the schools determine capacity by classroom usage and lunchroom capacity to fit three lunches. By better using the classrooms for instruction, we can increase capacity. Or by expanding lunchroom space, or improving seating (in the food court) to hold more students, or improving student flow (two serving lines instead of one and better timing arrivals). If the halls are crowded, add some time between classes.

Have the schools ever considered these alternatives? Disclosed them? Had some outside group validated them? A big no.

Phil Tahey

James City County

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette