by Madison White Franks
KILMARNOCK—The Lancaster school board on January 10 heard a review of recent school facilities committee discussions.
Committee chairman Jimmie Carter indicated that for 16 months, things have been going smoothly in reaching a consensus on the long term goals for county school facilities.
The public is not interested in rehabilitating the primary school or the high school, he said. The county would need at least two new schools.
Schools are spread out around the county. Based on information gathered from public meetings, there is unanimity that all of the schools should be served by public water and sewer.
“Using green technology [in the schools] is an educational and cost saving opportunity and sends an appropriate message of environmental stewardship to the students and the community at large,” said Carter. “It’s hard to know what education will be in the future and we think that being tightly conjoined leaves a lot of flexibility for unseen structuring in the future and how education will be used in the future.”
Carter said there will be cost savings with one major transportation hub, having one kitchen to service the schools near each other, a big gym for regional games and shared band and art rooms.
“There are a lot of costs involved in running a school and over a life span if you think you are going to have these schools 50-plus years, building them right the first time to make sure they are energy efficient, to make sure they are highly usable, it’s worth investing those dollars up front,” said Carter.
“We want to keep up a competitive environment in terms of pricing this land so we have identified some other sites in the town in case these go away,” said Carter.
The committee has been doing its due diligence seeking advice from construction professionals and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Board member Kenya Moody thanked Carter, committee member George Bott and VMDO representatives for all they have done in the process of determining what to do with the school facilities. Serving as a consultant, VMDO Architects has been working with the school facilities committee to gather information on what type of facilities will be best for the county.
“I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart because everything you have done has totally been voluntary,” said Moody.
Carter said the elephant in the room—the cost—will be talked about at the next meeting if possible.
“I don’t think the cost is the elephant in the room,” said Moody. “We are not the richest of the people but I do think that we can afford good schools and we deserve good schools. I think that we shouldn’t sell ourselves short. We don’t have to have 14 carat gold stuff, but we can have nice stuff and I think we need to keep that in mind. If you want something that can appreciate the value if you can afford it and not depreciate the value, that is just common sense to me.”
“You really came up with some interesting innovative ideas that have never crossed my mind,” said board member Audrey Thommasson.
Carter said it seems to be the ideal time to pursue this option. The courthouse is almost paid for and if the schools were to pursue new facilities, it would minimize the shock on the county’s tax rate.
“Every day that goes by is a day that our students are not getting the benefit of a great school,” said Carter.
The board re-elected Bob Westbrook as chairman and Audrey Thomasson as vice-chair and also voted to keep the meetings on the second Tuesday of the month.